SURFSIDE, Fla. (AP) — Jonah Handler’s miraculous rescue from one of many deadliest constructing collapses in U.S. historical past may appear to have an apparent parallel, given his identify.
The teenage boy fell from the tenth flooring of the beachfront rental tower that collapsed a yr in the past in Surfside, Florida, killing 98 people, together with his mom. He landed in a crevice, trapped inside a pocket amid fallen concrete. A person who had been strolling his canine noticed Jonah’s hand waving from the rubble and received assist.
For his father and others, the rescue brings to thoughts the Previous Testomony story of the prophet Jonah, swallowed by a whale despatched by God to avoid wasting him from drowning.
“Plucked from the jaws of loss of life,” Neil Handler mentioned in an interview with The Related Press. “I actually consider that God places folks in conditions that assist us construct character.”
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Now, Handler is sharing his son’s journey to bodily and psychological restoration as they begin a basis to assist households and first responders coping with post-traumatic stress dysfunction, like Jonah.
Handler mentioned he determined to begin the charity in reminiscence of Jonah’s mom, Stacie Fang, after seeing the ache within the eyes of the individuals who pulled his son from the rubble.
Photos of a primary responder carrying Jonah on his shoulders supplied hope to rescuers and the world because the search and rescue mission extended for 14 days. He was one in all solely three survivors. Fang died after being taken to a hospital, changing into the primary sufferer recognized by authorities. The household instantly requested privateness and Handler declined interviews till not too long ago.
Jonah’s father had saved the aftermath of the collapse non-public to guard his son, who’s now 16.
The boy spent 5 days within the hospital, affected by compression fractures in his again, and was in a brace for 2 months. He began remedy to deal with his loss and trauma. When thunderstorms roll in, Handler mentioned, he will get frightened.
“Each physician, each psychiatrist I spoke to mentioned that he’s no completely different than a fight veteran who simply got here again from warfare,” Handler mentioned.
He mentioned Jonah, a highschool baseball participant, went again to class and was handled like a “common child” to return to a way of normalcy.
Typically, the daddy tries to maintain issues gentle. On a current day, they had been going by means of an inventory of unclaimed gadgets recovered from the particles. Handler was searching for jewellery he knew was vital to Fang, reminiscent of a hoop handed down from her father. Jonah, alternatively, was wanting on the signed baseballs.
“He mentioned, ‘I didn’t know so many youngsters in my constructing favored baseball,’” Handler mentioned. “He goes, ‘Do you assume we will get them?’”
The day earlier than the collapse, Jonah and his mom had returned house from seeing her brother, who was visiting Palm Seaside County from New York.
Handler and Fang had separated however had co-parenting relationship, and he advised letting Jonah spend the evening at his place close by so she may go see her boyfriend. Handler mentioned Fang advised him they’d simply keep put as a result of they had been drained.
“I take into consideration that quite a bit,” Handler mentioned.
The decision got here at 2 a.m., as he slept. It was Jonah, asking the place he was and whether or not he had heard the collapse. Handler, who lives two buildings north, rushed over on foot however was unprepared for the scene of destruction.
“It was surreal. Mud within the air, a pile of simply particles, a constructing sheared in half, and I don’t know the place his mother is,” he mentioned.
The constructing had pancaked, flooring atop flooring, to type a 40-foot-high (12-meter-high) heap of rubble. The passer-by who had heard Jonah’s voice climbed by means of a pile of glass and rebar in his flip-flops and noticed the boy’s hand waving earlier than he left to get assist.
The reason for the collapse stays underneath investigation by the Nationwide Institute of Requirements and Expertise in a course of that might take years. However the constructing had a protracted historical past of upkeep issues and questions have been raised concerning the high quality of its authentic building.
A Florida decide gave preliminary approval final month to a settlement of more than $1 billion to households who misplaced family members within the collapse, for which Handler praised attorneys as a result of he mentioned it helps family keep away from years of courtroom battles. A listening to Thursday, the day earlier than the anniversary of the collapse, could finalize the settlement.
Discovering a brand new regular for Jonah and his father has include its challenges, however Handler mentioned the boy was on board with beginning the charity in honor of his mom.
The muse known as Phoenix Life Challenge may have its inaugural gala the day after the anniversary of the collapse and can embrace households of victims and first responders who dug by means of the rubble.
“These guys saved my child’s life. I’m endlessly indebted to them,” Handler mentioned.
The daddy mentioned that generally he feels powerless and finds it onerous to discern what’s typical habits for a 16-year-old boy and the way a lot is affected by what he suffered.
“Not solely did he survive a collapsed constructing falling round him, he misplaced his mother, and he’s received the survivor’s guilt. So it’s an entire mess of stuff that he’s coping with,” he mentioned.
Handler mentioned he doesn’t consider his son surviving the devastation was an accident.
“I don’t assume it was luck. I actually consider he’s a miracle. I consider he was chosen for one thing,” he mentioned.
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