María Iliana Monteagudo is devoted to the Virgin of Guadalupe and not so much to Caridad del Cobre, the patron saint of her native Cuba. So, when he was about to leave his 611 apartment that was beginning to crack in the 12-story Surfside buildingHe remembered the candle that he had lit for the Guadalupana and turned it off, at the same time that he asked him not to leave it while he tried to reach the street unharmed.

So when she began to fall asleep, something suddenly woke her up. “It was like a force that told me that something was wrong,” says the Cuban who immediately began to hear creaks at the door that led to her balcony overlooking the sea. It was at that moment that he saw a black crack that was opening while the ceiling was getting smaller and smaller.

“Get out of that place,” was what he said he heard in his head, so he ran to his room to take off his nightgown and took the first dress he found, and then put on some flip-flops, with which he was to the dining room to get his cell phone, his wallet, a pillbox with his medicines and the keys. Before reaching the door, he saw the candle lit to Guadalupe, he took it and with a blow he extinguished it.

In that frantic moment, as the noise began to increase and at the age of 64, Monteagudo made the decision to go down the stairs and not the elevator, as had been his first thought. With firm step She asked God not to abandon her “because I wanted to see my children and grandchildren again.” When he reached the fourth floor, he stopped when he heard a “huge, eerie noise” that made it clear to him that the building was falling.

With no time or desire to concentrate on the idea of ​​being crushed to death or that the debris would not allow her to open the door to the first floor – if she managed to get there – she continued to descend while everything creaked and filled with dust. “It was the most horrible moment I’ve ever had in my entire life”, account.

Just as she began to inton the umpteenth prayer to the Virgin and God, the grieving woman realized that she had reached the first floor door where the water was up to her ankles. When he was able to open it, all he could see was a rubble-strewn disaster area, so he didn’t know where he was. It was the cry of a security employee, who asked her to climb a small fence that had been formed about 5 feet, that brought her out of her momentary slumber.

“It was a lot of height for a 64-year-old woman,” she says, who suddenly took the guard’s outstretched hand to climb up, dropping her cell phone to be able to hold on with greater force. Once at the top of the makeshift wall, he knew it was going to be impossible to jump onto the street. So when he saw a small rubble on the left side that served as a stepping stone to go down, he knew that his prayers had been heard.

“Many people knew there were problems”

He told the newspaper The Washington Post who arrived at this Surfside building at the end of December, after his divorce left him about $ 600,000 in cash, an amount he disposed of to buy your apartment with the intention of living the rest of your life fully.

Despite the fact that her work hours did not leave her much time to enjoy the ocean view that had made her fall in love with on the first visit, she felt comfortable with the friendly neighbors.

However, according to testimonies and documents that already circulate widely in the US media, for many years, this building lacked the necessary attention to repair the alerts that some specialists were pointing out, as told by William Andrés Espinosa, former chief of maintenance of the property between 1995 and 2000, who claimed to never understand “Why there were so many water leaks (…) in the underground parking lot and for no apparent reason, even if it was a sunny day.”

On April 9, the association notified that the building would be subjected to 15 million dollars in maintenance that had been agreed to solve the structural problems that had to be dealt with urgently, after the engineer, Frank Morabito, from the Morabito Consultants company, carried out an inspection of the property in 2018.

Morabito Consultants said the neighborhood association had required his services again last year with the intention of preparing a repair and restoration plan for the building. Even Monteagudo asserted that all residents should start paying $ 1,000 extra starting this July, for this reason.

“It is a matter of extreme public importance”State prosecutor Katherine Fernández-Rundle said in a statement to the EFE agency.

For now, aware that he lost everything he had but that he has his life “And that’s all that matters”, María Iliana Monteagudo does not stop praying for all those who are under the rubble as the rescue work continues with time against.

“A lot of people knew there were problems in that building. This is a disaster that someone could have stopped before it happened. “She says with pain, while rubbing an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe that hangs from her necklace and who thanks her that today she only has a couple of bruises on her knees and that she is lucky enough to be able to tell her story.

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