Firefighters used a cherry picker to pluck Steve Rosenthal from his Unit 705 balcony after the Champlain Towers South partially crumbled last month.
The advertising executive escaped from his Surfside, Florida, condo building with just a few items in a paper bag – including a T-shirt, pants and his wallet.
Rosenthal now lives in a hotel paid for by friends and wears donated clothes. And he’s worried about what’s in store for the site of the collapse, which has killed at least 97 people.
Rosenthal still owes money on the two-bedroom condo he bought 20 years ago, and wants a solution that provides the fastest financial recovery for the survivors and victims’ families.
“I lost everything, my life is totally upside down, people I called friends are gone,” he told CNN. “I’m 72 years old, I can’t spend what’s left of my life trying to rebuild. Whatever they do, they just need to compensate people.”
He also would like to see some sort of memorial at the site to honor the lives of those lost.
But resolving the long-term future of the property – the site of a deadly disaster that also happens to be valuable beachfront real estate – will likely be complicated. And judging by what’s happened at the sites of other mass tragedies, it will take some time.
Some survivors don’t want to rebuild
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman has appointed a receiver, attorney Michael Goldberg, to oversee the complicated legal and financial issues involved and explore the land’s value as a potential source of compensation for the victims.
Hanzman also ordered the start of the process to sell the land, which could fetch up to $110 million, said Christina Pushaw, a spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The judge said this week that proceeds from the sale should go directly to the survivors and victims’ families.
Some relatives of victims have said they don’t want another condo building erected on the site.
“I’m not saying to not sell the land. The land needs to be sold and we need to be compensated for what happened,” Martin Langesfeld, whose sister died in the collapse, told CNN affiliate WFOR.
But Langesfeld said he’d prefer to see Miami-Dade County or another government agency buy the land and not build new condos on it so that “the victims’ families get the dignity and respect we’re looking for.”
He added, “Would you want to live where your family died?”
Soriya Cohen, whose husband, Brad Cohen, perished in the condo collapse, also said she doesn’t want a new building erected on the property. Instead, she said, the whole site should be set aside as a memorial for those who died.
“I can’t even imagine such a desecration. Imagine if that was your spouse, your parent or your grandparent and to make money, they built on top of it,” Cohen told CNN affiliate WPLG. “I’m asking people to respect that and respect the families and the people who have already suffered so much and not to add to our pain.”