Mireya and María move between the pressed cardboard boxes. At full speed they accommodate mineral water, packets of snacks, a T-shirt between piles of bags full of donations. Amid the gloomy climate of anguish and tragedy that surrounds the collapsed building, your task and that of thousands of other city dwellers is a ray of light peeking out. When the pain reaches the deepest, community solidarity emerges in Miami
In the Surfside Town Community Center, about 4 blocks from the Champlain Towers complex, you see a tingle of volunteers who, like Mireya and María, prepare boxes with products to donate to those affected by the landslide. Others prepare food that they distribute in thermal boxes and that they put in different rows depending on whether they are Kosher (food suitable for Jewish consumption) or not Kosher.
Surfside it is a neighborhood with a strong presence of the Jewish community. A few meters from the community center stands one of the largest synagogues in the city, which occupies practically one block. Some volunteers, like Isack Merenfeld from a North Miami synagogue, rented moving trucks and made themselves available for food transfers. In his truck, he says, he only transports Kosher food, but there are others that carry all kinds of food.
The battalion of spontaneous volunteers and different community organizations arrived at this place the same Thursday of the collapse. to assist those who need it. But fundamentally to the relatives of the disappeared and those who have had to evacuate.
Help those affected by the collapse in Miami. Photo: Paula Lugones
When part of the south tower of the complex collapsed, another segment of the building with dozens of apartments remained standing.. Many of the inhabitants managed to get out on their own, but others were rescued by firefighters with cranes.
“They came out with what they were wearing, without any belongings. We take the donations to the hotels where they are located now ”, says María to Clarion.
Mireya adds that among what they offer are shirts, T-shirts, latex gloves, and chinstraps. “We are separating because we have Kosher and non-kosher foods, also products for allergy sufferers. Those who need come, grab their food, leave. But most of them go to the hotels where the evacuees are, ”he explains.
This community center, which has a meeting room, was the place where the relatives of the disappeared had congregated in the early days. But, as the hours passed and the rescue was delayed, the relatives were transferred to the Grand Beach Hotel, where they have more comfortable facilities for a long-winded wait.
María and Mireya help those affected by the collapse in Miami. Photo: Paula Lugones
Now at the door of the Center they see stacks of plastic bags full of clothing and non-perishable food, and dozens of packs of mineral water. There is also a truck from a telephone company that offers to charge cell phones because the electricity in much of the area has been cut off to ensure rescue work. Donations also include inflatable mattresses, cell phone chargers, hygiene and anti-Covid products and pillows.
Miami Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said the county was working with the Red Cross and local social services, police and fire departments to “make sure these people are well housed.” At a time when hotels are collapsed due to the summer and the flood of Latin American tourists who come to get vaccinated, it is difficult to find places. But they are temporarily installed in hotels, apartments that many owners volunteer, through Airbnb and other options.
Ryan Mermer, coordinator of the group Heroes of the Holocaust in the World, says that I had set up a WhatsApp group for the Surfside Jewish community and that an hour later, 50 people had signed up to help. “People are united, more than ever,” he says.
There’s also food and drink donations for rescuers, which are stacked in plastic tents to protect them from the sun. Hundreds of experts dig through the rubble day and night. A video widely circulated in Miami showed a boy of about 5 years old offering snacks to some firefighters who were passing by in the street.
Everything works when it comes to calming pain and anguish. Florida Blue, in conjunction with New Directions Behavioral Health, offers a 24-hour toll-free telephone line for post-disaster counseling. People can call to connect with professionals who can help those expressing feelings of stress, anxiety or trauma after this tragedy that devastated the city.