‘It’s going to be a long time’: Residents displaced by Miami Gardens apartment fire reflect on future
After a call from a concerned loved one, Nidia Lau rushed to the condo building she shared with her husband Rey and their 18-year-old Shih Tzu Banti.
The 61-year-old, upon his arrival, would soon face the difficulties he is facing. Lau and her husband were among 105 people displaced after a fire engulfed dozens of units in a two-story building at 395 NW 177th St. in Miami Gardens on Saturday morning.
The couple’s first-floor apartment, which they bought in 2012, was flooded by the fire after the roof collapsed. They were able to retrieve some of their documents and Lau’s work uniforms.
In the meantime, they are staying at a shelter at the Betty T. Ferguson Recreation Complex, nearly five miles from the condo building. Lau frantically paces the hallway — sometimes carrying Banti, sometimes chatting on the phone — as she processes the shock of the past two days.
Lau has a host of concerns floating around in his mind. The apartment complex has been deemed uninhabitable and residents will not be able to return for at least a year. Yet the condominium management association wants to collect fees – even when residents are homeless.
On top of that, she also faces a tough choice for her elderly dog, who can’t see or hear.
“I’m thinking of putting him to sleep,” she said in Spanish. “Even though the thought hurts me.”
The emotion is palpable in the hollow faces that roam the corridors of the refuge. Some find ways to smile and joke through the trauma. Others reflect, empathize with their neighbors and step outside to breathe the fresh air.
“It’s going to be long,” a woman told a neighbor. “It will be long.”
The community takes its first steps towards reconstruction
The South Florida Red Cross does not have a final count of the number of people displaced, but regional communications manager Tiffany Gonzalez told the Miami Herald that more than 50 residents are temporarily housed at the recreation complex. sunday. Fifteen others, who have found refuge with family or friends, have requested the services of the association.
“It will be a long recovery for many families,” said Miami Gardens Councilman Robert Stephens. “But we are committed as a city to doing everything we can to put our resources behind them, to help the system as much as possible.”
On Sunday, counselor Linda Julien introduced herself to families at the shelter and asked them what they needed. She listened to their stories, offering kind words and support.
Julien, an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College, said a few of his real estate students and colleagues have reached out to help residents find housing.
“To see this outpouring of love coming from the community is truly a blessing,” added Julien.
For Lau, the support she has received gives her hope during a difficult time. She has co-workers at Walmart who buy her and her husband new clothes; a girl who set up a GoFundMe; and hot meals, service and compassion from Red Cross volunteers.
“I’m treated like family here,” Lau noted. “Even better than family.”
Although many lost everything, Julien said she was grateful no one lost their life. She said tears streamed down her face in church on Sunday morning as she thought of the tragedy.
Lau, holding back her sobs, turned to Julien before kissing him.
“God will provide,” Lau said.