An elderly woman broke down in tears as she was reunited with the man who rescued her from the condo collapse in Surfside, Florida.
Esther Gorfinkel and Alfredo Lopez shared a tearful hug during an interview after he saved her by carrying on his shoulders as she struggled to make it down the stairs.
They could have been victims of last Thursday’s collapse of Champlain Towers South, which has left at least 24 dead and 124 missing.
Esther Gorfinkel, an 88-year-old grandmother, was in her bed in Unit 509 when she heard a ‘boom,’ as she described it.
‘My bed shake,’ Esther said in an interview posted on CNN on Friday. ‘My apartment is shaking.’
Alfredo Lopez and Esther Gorfinkel shared a tearful reunion after their escape from the collapsed condo last week
Gorfinkel became tearful while recounting the person that helped save her life
A rescuer visits the ‘Surfside Wall of Hope & Memorial’ near the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building in Surfside, Florida on July 2
She managed to make her way to the stairwell, where she encountered Alfredo Lopez, whose family escaped from Unit 605.
‘I remember Esther told me she had – her knee was bothering her and she wanted to stop, Alfredo said. ‘I told her, “Stopping is not an option.”‘
Alfredo picked her up because Esther couldn’t walk on her own and tossed her over his shoulder before carrying her down the stairs.
‘I don’t know how many flights of stairs,’ Alfredo said of the descent. ‘It couldn’t have been that many because I’m really not that strong.’
‘He just picked me up,’ Esther said.
Later in the interview, Esther added, ‘In that minute, you don’t talk. You don’t say anything… let’s run, let’s run, let’s run, let’s go.’
They made it to the garage, where water was ankle deep and the ceiling had collapsed, making their escape more perilous.
‘There was one car that was pancaked on top of another car that was pancaked on top of a huge slab of concrete,’ Alfredo said of the scene.
The two shared a tearful reunion for an interview, with them hugging and the rescuer asking ‘Como estas?’ casually to the woman he helped save
Alfredo said that there was no chance he was leaving Esther behind during the collapse
Alfredo’s son helped push Esther up and out of the garage with another man named Albert Aguero reportedly pulling her.
Once out, Alfredo then put Esther on his shoulder again and carried her to the beach and to safety.
‘I’m so happy,’ Esther said upon reuniting for the first time after the harrowing escape.
‘I’m so happy too,’ Alfredo replied. ‘I’m so happy to see you and we made it out. That’s what’s important, right?’
‘Yes that’s important,’ Esther responded. ‘I’m so happy.’
Bam Adebayo of the Miami Heat reacts as he looks at a memorial that has pictures of some of the missing from the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building
Esther expressed gratitude, saying: ‘You need to help each other in bad times too.’
‘In bad times you help everybody,’ Esther continued. ‘Whoever knocks on my door and need help, I give it to them. And then God give me the prize of my life because I did so many good things.’
‘I know I’m lucky,’ Esther added. ‘Very lucky to be here with my family.’
‘Up there, somebody’s watching,’ Esther said, motioning to the sky.
‘Absolutely. Esther, it wasn’t our time,’ Alfredo responded.
Before they departed again, Esther told Alfredo ‘you make me very happy’.
Alfredo is dealing with survivor’s guilt, though, haunted by the image of a missing doorway to his neighbor’s apartment during his escape.
The collapse of Champlain Towers South has left at least 24 dead and 124 missing.
Search and rescue personnel help a colleague, as they work atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South condo building, where scores of victims remain missing more than a week after it partially collapsed
A dog assists search and rescue personnel atop the rubble at the Champlain Towers South
The collapse of Champlain Towers South has left at least 22 dead and 126 missing
The mayor of Miami-Dade County announced on Friday that she had ordered the portion of Champlain Towers South that was still standing to be demolished
The mayor of Miami-Dade County announced on Friday that she had ordered the portion of Champlain Towers South that was still standing to be demolished. That will be undertaken on Sunday.
The decision was made amid fears the structure could completely collapse, further disrupting rescue efforts.