Collapse Survivors Have a Daunting Challenge: Rebuilding Their Lives

Steve Rosenthal narrowly escaped death in the Surfside condo collapse.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Whether they’re staying with family members in the area or in local hotels, the shock of the collapse is starting to wear off for the Chaplain Towers survivors.

Now they’re starting to wonder, how do I rebuild my life when I don’t have an apartment, I don’t have a car, and all my things are gone? 

Steve Rosenthal showed us a closet in his room at the Marriott in Surfside. It had a handful of shirts, all of them donated, along with some donated shoes. He said that’s all he has now, since he ran for his life last Thursday. 

“The Red Cross, thank God, was able to put me up here for a week,” Rosenthal said, before showing us the shirt he escaped with. 

Everything else Rosenthal owns, he left behind when he escaped. The apartment next door is gone. His unit marked the line between standing and rubble. 

“Right now I’m rolling on adrenaline, quite honestly,” Rosenthal said, explaining that the fact that he so narrowly escaped death has not yet sunk in. “No, it hasn’t fully hit me yet, I know it’s a miracle.”

Beyond adrenaline, generosity is sustaining survivors like Rosenthal. He’s received $2,000 in prepaid credit cards and a hotel room for free, for now. 

“What’s gonna happen long term? Short term, we’re OK for the week or two weeks, and people are concerned, I mean, they got to go on with their life, there are mothers here, single mothers with kids,” Rosenthal said. has raised more than a million dollars. The public has responded to help those left homeless by the collapse and families of the victims. Now survivors have questions. 

“People need to know, I need to make a deposit first, last, security, I gotta buy furniture, I gotta buy a living room, a bedroom set, everybody’s cars are gone,” Rosenthal said.

What about insurance?

“Well some people have insurance, some people don’t, insurance only covers so much, I mean I’ve got insurance, it’s not enough to replace my apartment, trust me,” Rosenthal responded. “So I’m grateful, don’t get me wrong, but it’s now, let us know what’s going on. Who’s distributing this money? Who’s controlling this money?”

The answer is complicated. We reached out to one of the groups who formed, the Miami Foundation, and they told us the Red Cross will continue to pay for survivors to stay in hotels until July 15.

In the meantime, is working out long-term plans to equitably distribute the donated money. First priority, they say, is to get people through this crisis stage and then to help families pay for funeral costs. 

Then the mission becomes helping survivors get back on their feet. It will be a months-long process.

Contact Us