Echoes of 9/11 lead Miami businessman to welcome survivors, Florida families fall apart
When Miami-based businessman Andreas King-Geovanis learned that a condominium near Surfside had collapsed, he knew from experience that the disaster would lead to displacement.
The 31-year-old New York native, who runs a vacation rental company, was still a child living with his family near the World Trade Center when he was attacked on September 11, 2001. After news of the Champlain Towers disaster broke. In the south, King-Geovanis called its 165 staff members to a meeting to tell them that his company, Sextant Stays, would provide a month of rent-free housing to the survivors and families of those still missing.
“They just have nowhere to go,” King-Geovanis said, recalling his own family being evacuated from their skyscraper after 9/11. To secure an apartment in the area, survivors must have the money for at least three months’ rent available, he says.
“We’re really giving people a month to help them find their place,” King-Geovanis said. King-Geovanis posted their offer on social media, and now 15 families who lived or had relatives in the Champlain South Towers occupy 17 apartments in a Sextant building about 8 km from the disaster site.
Other groups helping with housing and other support include the American Red Cross, the county social service agency, and Jewish and other religious organizations, according to Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine. It’s okay. More than a week after the collapse, the confirmed death toll stood at 18 dead Thursday, after the discovery of six other bodies in the ruins of the condominium, including two children, aged 4 and 10. 145 other people are missing and fear death.
King-Geovanis and his team were able to outfit apartments in a building slated to open in August with beds, Wi-Fi hotspots and artwork within 48 hours. More than a dozen individuals and other businesses donated food and toiletries. Among those who took advantage of the offer was Maggie Ramsey, a Jupiter-based marketing executive whose 80-year-old mother, Magaly Delgado, lived in the collapsed building.
Ramsey said his mother will be visiting Napa Valley in California with his grandsons, Matthew and Christopher, later this year. “’Get up, work hard and don’t forget to go to church,’” her mother always told them, she said.
Ramsey and her husband are now commuting between their Sextant apartment and the daily briefings, hopefully hoping for good news. King-Geovanis said the collapse was difficult to understand.
“I really didn’t think an occupied building would collapse, maybe something that has been abandoned or derelict,” he said. “But when I saw the pictures of furniture on the collapsed balcony and the children’s bunk beds on what was the roof, I knew we were facing a tragedy.”
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