Esther Gorfinkel was wearing slippers and a nightgown when she fled the building.

By Meghan Overdeep
July 01, 2021
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Surfside Condo Collapse
Credit: CHANDAN KHANNA/Getty Images

Esther Gorfinkel was in bed in her fifth-floor condo when the building began to shake violently last Thursday morning.

The 88-year-old, who called Miami's Champlain Towers home for more than 40 years, knew she had to get out of there. She told Local 10 News that she was in shock as she slowly descended the stairs wearing only a nightgown, a housecoat, and slippers.

"Who would think that something like this would happen at 1:30 in the morning? In your life? In my old age that I would see something so horrible like this?" Gorfinkel said.

When she made it to the ground floor, she bumped into some neighbors from the 11th floor.

One of them, a man named Albert Aguero, swung Gorfinkel over his back and carried her to safety.

"She was obviously shaken. She was like, 'I've lived a good life. I'm good. I was like, 'No, no, you're going to make it to your 89th birthday, I promise.' And we got her out," Aguero told the local news station.

While she made it out of with her life, Gorfinkel has no clothes, no identification, no medications, and no bank records. She lost everything when the high-rise condominium collapsed.

"My wedding pictures… My mother's wedding pictures… My children's wedding pictures. Pictures in an album of my husband after the war. You know how many albums of pictures I have? Everything is in there," she told Local 10 News. "My poor birds are dead. I leave two birds there."

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Gorfinkel is now living with her son Marcos, while Aguero is staying with family in New Jersey. They plan to meet for a face-to-face reunion when he's back in Florida.

In the meantime, Marcos shared a message for Aguero and the other kind people who helped his mother.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you. You guys are heroes. Angels," he told Local 10 News. "They saved my mom's life."