The condo collapse in Surfside, Florida has a Loudoun County man relieving and retelling his own horror story, after he was rescued from an apartment building collapse 20 years ago.
For five long days in 2001, Viral Dalal was trapped in the rubble of a collapsed apartment building in Bhuj, India after a magnitude-7.7 earthquake.
“I remember that specific day as if it just happened yesterday,” he said. “It brought back those memories of devastation and destruction.”
But Dalal’s story is also one of hope. When he sees the collapsed condo building, he thinks there could be someone trapped, just like he was.
“When I look at it I just feel like, there has to be someone who is somewhere in the corner, stuck in a place where the person is not injured, but just stuck, just waiting for help,” he said.
Dalal pointed to a photograph of the debris Monday and explained how he was stuck in complete darkness with concrete just two inches from his face.
He was alone with his hunger, thirst and thoughts.
“It is incredible where your mind can take you,” he said. “Your mind can take you to dark places and I had to pull myself back up from where my mind was trying to take me and where I wanted to go.”
He focused his thoughts on the idea of being rescued and reuniting with his loved ones.
“Don’t give up on hope. Don’t give up, because the people who came to rescue me, they never gave up,” Dalal said.
After his rescue, Dalal learned he had lost his entire family in a matter of moments. His parents, brother, sister-in-law and nephew did not survive.
He chose to focus on the positive and published a book a few years ago titled “Choosing Light: Learning to Fully Live.”
“Every day is a happy day. Make the best of it, and be happy to be alive,” he said.
The International Rescue Corps saved his life, and he knows rescuers in Florida will do all they can to find survivors there, too.