Imagine having nothing.
Imagine being a survivor of the Surfside, FL., condo collapse.
You have been out of your home for 11 days, and have just learned Champlain Towers South must be demolished. That happened Sunday night.
This is not to diminish the immense loss of life, which is certain to be more than 100. The grief of their families is palpable, but for the dead, who I hope died quickly, it is over.
For the living, it is just beginning.
For them, almost everything they owned was in their apartments, and they were not allowed to retrieve anything before explosives brought it down. Officials said it was not safe.
Maybe a few people grabbed their medicine, but most didn’t.
I can imagine it, a little.
Less than a decade ago my condo building suffered a severe flood, starting at the top of the building where a water valve failed, one that would be used to suppress fire. The building flooded from the top down, with a few apartments demolished, some moderately damaged, some barely touched.
When the alarms went off, as they do from time to time, I was not concerned and left the building in the evening pretty much with nothing other than what I was wearing. The elevators were off, so I walked down 28 floors, which was not hard, but kind of dizzying.
After inspection, the fire department ordered that no one be allowed back in the building. PFD feared the building’s structural integrity might have been compromised. It was about midnight.
It was inconvenient. Management of the building made a quick deal for a reduced rate at the nearby DoubleTree Hotel. I headed for the nearby Daily News and slept in my office, figuring this was just temporary.
We were not allowed in the next day. The elevators were turned off.
I had a problem. My cat was in my apartment and he needed to be fed.
Fortunately, I was friendly with a building staffer who snuck me in and took me to the 28th floor. I cleaned the litter box, put out a lot of food and water, grabbed my meds and left.
That night a Daily News friend took me to her home in New Jersey. The third night I spent in the Sofitel.
The building then opened.
But what if it had gone another way?
Had authorities ordered the building demolished, I’m sure emergency workers would have rescued pets — but not possessions.
So there I would have been — no home, just the ID in my wallet.
My passport and birth certificate would have been destroyed.
Fortunately, my insurance company knows me. Would a total loss of everything be covered?
Maybe yes, but would it buy me a new condo at market value and how long would that take? And what would I do with my cat?
A lifetime collection of books, plus my notes and records — gone.
One break — most of my important pictures were transferred to my iPad, which connects with my iPhone, and they would be in the cloud, so they would be retrievable.
Furniture, book cases, books, silverware, dinnerware, rugs, bric-a-brac, memorabilia, momentos, artwork, files — clothing from underwear to winter parkas — all gone.
So that’s what dozens of families in Surfside are facing.
Authorities have said they have organized a method for collecting personal effects after the demolition. How well will that go?
Yes, they are lucky to have their lives, but they will have to rebuild or recreate everything they ever owned.
And some things, of sentimental value, can’t be replaced.
It was an awful Fourth of July for them.