SURFSIDE, Fla. — Michelle Guerra woke up to a slew of frantic phone calls Thursday morning from her grandmother, brother and mom.
What You Need To Know
- Michelle Guerra among hundreds searching for family members unaccounted for after building collapse
- She says her father, Gil, "is a fierce warrior of perseverance," which he instilled in his children
- READ IT: Champlain Towers public records documents
They were all asking if she had heard from her father, Gil Guerra, a resident of the south Champlain tower.
“I feel like the foundation has been pulled from the bottom of my feet," she said.
Guerra was renting a unit on the ninth floor with his wife, Betty, and presumably home sleeping when the tower collapsed. No one has heard from the couple.
“My Dad is a fierce warrior of perseverance, and he instilled that in my brother and I, and right now, it's really coming in handy,” Guerra said.
More than 48 hours after the collapse, Guerra was staying hopeful. She said this has been her first real experience with grief, and there’s been a lot of ups and downs through the process.
“I didn’t understand it," she said. “I’ve never actually experienced grief before, but I learned about myself today.”
Gil immigrated from Cuba when he was teenager and took English classes at night while completing manual labor jobs during the day to make ends meet, Guerra said. He went on to pay his way through the University of Miami and worked to have the life he had always dreamed of.
“He provided a wonderful life for my family and I,” she said. “I didn’t see it because I was too close to the situation and too young to understand what a beautiful home, a pool, food on my table really meant. I didn’t know how to be grateful for all that.
"I do now.”
Guerra says she’s been blown away by the amount of love and support from her friends and the community. She hopes everyone can stay unified and use each other for comfort.
“Even though this is a situation that I don’t understand and we don’t understand why this is happening... we have to get through it because that’s what our loved ones would want,” she said.