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Family, friends desperately need answers in Surfside

Hope turns to despair as time passes after condo collapse
A partial collapse at the Champlain Towers South condominium building in Surfside on June 24, 2021.jpg
Posted at 10:16 PM, Jun 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-25 23:38:32-04

SURFSIDE, Fla. — During happier times, Lilly Gracia remembers her friend Manny LaFont and his kids singing happy birthday to her. But now, her friend is missing. LaFont was in apartment 801 in the Champlain Towers South.

"He's a great dad. He has two children, a boy and a girl. These kids are missing their father," she said.

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Manny LaFonte

There is a sense of desperation and sadness in the air in Surfside.

"Honestly, I'm hoping for the best, but, obviously, there have been times I haven't been 100% in my mind," Avi Cohen said.

He is stressed. Cohen said his dad, Brad Cohen, was on the 11th floor and his uncle, Gary Cohen, was visiting. At the time of the building collapsing, Avi Cohen was in Israel but quickly flew back.

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Brad Cohen
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GARY COHEN

"I called my dad, who always answers his phone because he's a doctor," he said. "He has to keep his phone on him. He didn't answer, so that was already a bad sign."

Avi Cohen's mom, Soriya, is troubled with the search and the agonizing wait.

"The least they can do is call out to the survivors who are under the rubble right now and say, 'We've excavated 55 feet. We have 25 feet more to go. Hang on,'" she said. "And call each one of their names on a blow horn."

Gracia said all she can do is keep the faith and focus on what LaFont means to her family.

"He's friends not just with me and my husband," she said. "He's friends with my children."

At the moment, 4 people are confirmed dead and 159 are missing.

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