FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) – When rising 16-year-old volleyball star Deven Gonzalez was removed from the rubble of her Miami condominium, her first reaction amid the shock was to tell firefighters that she was scheduled to participate in a major tournament in a few days.
The teenager’s entire world revolved around volleyball. She played beach volleyball, on her high school team, and with a competitive travel club team. From her hospital bed where she underwent several surgeries for a fractured femur, she apologized profusely to her trainer for missing their last workout.
“I said, ‘Let’s focus on you now and not volleyball,'” said club coach Amy Morgan, who described the teenager as extremely determined, passionate and relentless in pursuing her goals. .
Gonzalez lived with his parents on the ninth floor of Champlain Towers South. She and her mother, Andrea Gonzalez, fell from several floors before being rescued on the fifth floor, she told her trainer. Her mother was among the survivors extracted from the rubble and is still hospitalized with serious injuries, Morgan told The Associated Press.
At least two dozen were killed in the partial collapse of the building on Thursday. Deven’s father, lawyer Edgar Gonzalez, is among more than 120 people still missing. The eldest daughter of the family, Taylor, who was not in the building when the collapse occurred, was a source of strength for her mother and sister, according to Morgan and Joslyn Varona, a family friend who posted frequent updates on Facebook.
“They are a strong and wonderful family,” said Varona. “They have a lot of faith.”
Deven still hasn’t been able to see her mother as they are in separate parts of the hospital, but she briefly video chatted with her a few days ago on her mother’s birthday when the tube d Andrea Gonzalez’s intubation has been removed, Morgan said.
Deven Gonzalez was conscious when the building collapsed and throughout her traumatic rescue, her trainer said. She remembers details very well and has trouble sleeping, haunted by nightmares.
“I don’t know if she has come to terms with everything completely. She did and she didn’t, ”said Morgan, who added that Deven was unaware of the extent of the tragedy and the global attention she received.
“She said, ‘My father is still missing. My father is still missing, ”Morgan said. “She’s really suffocated by it.”
The teenager even took her first steps recently.
“It’s going to be a tough and painful road, but I think she can do it,” Morgan said.
Andrea Gonzalez will undergo surgery for her extensive injuries this week, but answered questions asked, Varona said in her Facebook posts.
“There was no news on Edgar,” Varona wrote. “We still pray and hope for a miracle. “
Varona said she has set up a letter writing campaign to encourage the family.
Edgar and Andrea Gonzalez were heavily involved in Deven’s volleyball goals, the coach said. Her mother was like the therapist on the team, always listening and encouraging the girls.
Edgar is a kind, gentle, and cheerful father, Morgan said. After a tournament, he helped prepare a huge barbecue feast for the team. The family was about to leave for Orlando when the building collapsed. Edgar was so excited he had been blown away for two weeks.
“They are so loving, so supportive,” Morgan said. “I see a lot of (Deven’s) strength coming from his parents.”
The tragedy was difficult for the tight-knit volleyball team, who gathered for practice Thursday night and allowed parents to participate. Everyone was sitting in a circle and holding hands as they prayed. Many cried.
“Deven is such a hardworking and loving person,” teammate Liyah Deveaux said on Sunday. “We can’t wait for her to get back on her feet. We love her and miss her so much.
A GoFundMe site has raised over $ 100,000 for the family.
“We’re really trying to help and support, but we feel absolutely helpless that we can’t do better,” Morgan said. “Each of us would be there digging through the rubble. If we could be there, we would.