Pushing through the crowd of horrified residents surrounding the oceanfront Miami Beach-area condo that partially collapsed on Thursday morning, Michael Guerra began to scream out in Spanish to his missing father and step-mother.
“Hold on, we are coming for you tomorrow. Hold on,” the 32-year-old screamed, as he later told his younger sister, Michelle, who recounted the episode to The Daily Beast on Friday.
“I just hope my father and Betty heard that,” Michelle Guerra told The Daily Beast. “[Michael] is going to keep yelling into the sand today until they find him. He is just going to keep screaming for my dad and Betty to hold on.”
The Guerras are among a harrowing number of loved ones and friends waiting for a rescue crew to search through the rubble for survivors of the collapsed portion of the Champlain Towers in Surfside, a town adjacent to Miami Beach. Oresme Gil Guerra, and his wife Betty Guerra, who lived on the ninth floor of the 50-unit, ocean-front condo complex, are among as many as 159 people who are still missing, according to Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava. Four people have been confirmed dead from the collapse, but Cava gravely admitted Friday morning that number was virtually certain to rise.
Michelle Guerra, a 26-year-old who works as a model in Miami, said her dad and step-mom were planning on moving out soon after their condo owner announced plans to sell ahead of the building’s upcoming inspection. The mechanics of the latter procedural step, of course, have already factored heavily into early appraisals of what went horribly wrong to cause the catastrophe.
On Thursday morning, Guerra said, she woke up to a call from her biological mother telling her “something happened and the building my dad lived in on Miami Beach had collapsed.”
“I didn’t know what that meant. They were just words, they had no meaning at the time,” she told The Daily Beast. “I called my brother, and he was already at the scene. He spent all day there yesterday trying to figure out what was going on with our dad and Betty.”
While she was not close with her father, Guerra described him and her stepmother as “extremely hardworking individuals who are super caring.” She said that throughout this surreal experience, her family has been “incredibly strong because that’s what my dad would want us to be. He would want us to believe in him.”
Oresme Gil Guerra spent most of his professional career as a mechanical engineer and had been doing consulting for several companies over the last few years, according to his daughter. His wife, a mother of two sons whom he married in 2017, has spent the majority of her life working for the cosmetic company Avon. Guerra said that a few years ago, the couple even opened up their own Avon store in Miami and shared several properties together—including one Vizcaya home where “the family would have all their major gatherings.”
“I think they worked so they could travel. They loved to travel,” Guerra recalled.
Comparing the rubble to that of 9/11, Guerra said she was trying hard not to think about all of the missing family members who are still waiting to be rescued on Friday.
“He is my blood. A lot of my strength and a lot of my perseverance come from him. I just want him back,” she said.
“I hope that he is ok and I know that he is a survivor and I know that he will make it out of this,” Guerra continued, adding, “If they come out of this alive, I am going to try to spend as much time as I can with that man.”
“Even if I want to strangle him, at least I will be with him.”