The publicity manager escaped from his Surfside, Florida condominium with only a few items in a paper bag, including a T-shirt, pants and wallet.
Rosenthal still owes money for the two-bedroom condo he bought 20 years ago and wants a solution that offers the fastest financial recovery for survivors and families of victims.
“I lost everything, my life is totally turned upside down, the people I used to call friends are gone,” he told CNN. “I’m 72, I can’t spend the rest of my life trying to rebuild. Whatever they do, they just need to compensate people. “
But figuring out the long-term future of the property – the site of a deadly disaster that also happens to be valuable oceanfront real estate – will likely be complicated. And judging by what happened at the sites of other mass tragedies, it will take some time.
Some survivors don’t want to rebuild
The site has been largely cleaned up and its debris moved to a collection site as evidence for the collapse investigations.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman has appointed a receiver, attorney Michael Goldberg, to oversee the complex legal and financial issues involved and explore the value of the land as a potential source of compensation for victims.
Hanzman also ordered the start of the process of selling the land, which could bring in up to $ 110 million, said Christina Pushaw, spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. The judge said this week that the proceeds from the sale should go directly to survivors and the families of the victims.
Some relatives of the victims said they did not want another condominium building erected on the site.
“I’m not saying don’t sell the land. The land needs to be sold and we need to be compensated for what happened, ”Martin Langesfeld, whose sister died in the collapse, told CNN affiliate WFOR.
But Langesfeld said he would prefer Miami-Dade County or some other government agency to buy the land and not build new condos so that “the families of the victims get the dignity and respect that we seek.”
He added: “Would you like to live where your family died?
Soriya Cohen, whose husband Brad Cohen perished in the condominium collapse, also said she did not want a new building erected on the property. Instead, she said, the entire site should be set aside as a memorial for those who died.
“I can’t even imagine such a desecration. Imagine if it was your spouse, parent or grandparent and to make money they built on it, ”Cohen told CNN affiliate WPLG. “I ask people to respect this and respect the families and individuals who have already suffered so much and not add to our pain. “
Part of Cohen’s concerns are rooted in the Jewish tradition of respecting the dead and the sanctity of burial sites. Many of the building’s victims were Jewish.
But under Jewish burial laws, the site would not be considered sacred if the human remains found there were moved, said Michael Berenbaum, a Los Angeles rabbi and Jewish scholar who focuses on memorials.
Berenbaum said that what ultimately becomes property “is a social and political decision, not a religious decision.”
But others want new homes on the site
A sign of the division of the issue, several condo owners asked the judge during a hearing this week to allow a developer to erect a new building on the site.
The beachfront residential property is highly sought after in the tropical community of around 5,800 people, where palm trees dot the streets.
“Some people want a memorial, but there is a remnant of people who owned homes there who want to go back to the site,” Surfside Mayor Charles W. Burkett said. “The challenge will be to balance these two interests. We understand this very well, and the receiver is hypersensitive to the needs of those who have lost loved ones. “
The process of determining what happens to the site will be based on three steps. Goldberg, the receiver, will determine what the majority of condo owners want and make recommendations to the judge, who will ultimately make the final decision, said Burkett, the mayor.
State officials will have no say, according to the DeSantis office.
“It is not up to the state how the land is used, because it is not public land,” said Pushaw, spokesperson for the governor. “Survivors have expressed different opinions on what to do with the land, with some suggesting that it should be sold to the local or state government, and some wanting to sell to a private developer to rebuild on the site so that they can return to the place they still consider their home. “
Burkett said he was in constant conversation with the families of the victims. One option could be a compromise – a memorial next to a new residential building for people who wish to return to live at the site, he said.
Burkett added that his preference would come down to the receiver’s recommendation, based on conversations with relatives of the victims.
Hanzman, the judge, said he expects the cases to be closed within a year.
Other sites of mass tragedies have been converted into memorials
Over the years, the sites of other mass tragedies, such as the 9/11 attack on the New York Twin Towers and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, have been redeveloped into memorials for them. dead.
A memorial also stands in a plaza in Kansas City, near where 114 people were killed in 1981 when two overheard walkways collapsed at the Hyatt Regency hotel. The hotel has been renovated and renamed but remains operational.
But such memorials can involve a patchwork of local, state and federal recommendations, and their implementation can take years.
Residents of Newtown, Connecticut, just voted this spring to build a memorial to the 26 people killed by a mass gunman in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
In Las Vegas, where a shooting in 2017 at a country music festival left 58 people dead, plans for a memorial are still underway almost four years later..
And last month, the US Senate passed a measure designating the site of the deadly Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 in Orlando as a national memorial. “The Pulse nightclub is sacred ground,” said President Joe Biden, who signed the bill days later.
Despite calls to turn the Surfside site into a memorial, survivors and families of the victims will not be invited to donate their shares of the property, Judge Hanzman said.
“These victims who have lost their homes, their belongings and, in many cases, their lives are not going to sacrifice the value of their real estate for the public good,” said Hanzman, who oversees the civil lawsuits filed in the wake. . of collapse.
“The task of this tribunal and your task is to compensate the victims of this tragedy, period,” he told lawyers at a hearing this week.
Whatever happens, it doesn’t return to the Surfside site
Meanwhile, Rosenthal and other survivors of the collapse attempt to rebuild their lives.
He is one of dozens of people who receive help from the Global Empowerment Mission, which distributes funds, housing assistance and gift cards to survivors. Her friends also set up a GoFundMe to help her get back on her feet.
Rosenthal can’t forget that terrifying night of June 24 when he woke up to a thunderous noise, thinking he was dreaming of an earthquake in California. With his unit shaking and rocking bed, he realized it was real when dust floated from the ceiling onto his face.
He said he could hear his neighbors shouting, “Help! Help !
“I ran outside to the balcony to see what was burning. I am hit by a plume of smoke that knocks me out. I was like, “Whatever it is, Rosenthal, you’re in it now.” “”
He also remembers the agonizing minutes spent waiting on his balcony to be rescued.
Between searches for a new home, Rosenthal is now attending court hearings Zoom in on what will happen to the land where his apartment building once stood.
Regardless of the court ruling, he said he hoped to find a new home a few miles away in Miami Beach. He does not intend to return to the site of the Champlain Sud towers.