Jonah Handler, the 15-year-old boy who was pulled from the rubble of the Surfside collapse, was reunited with his rescuers weeks after being saved. The heartwarming reunion, which comes weeks after the heroes pulled Handler from the debris, was posted as an update to the GoFundMe fundraiser, with pictures showing the previously unnamed rescuers side by side with the teenager they saved.
“The first time we saw these nameless heroes was on the newsreels as they were pulling my boy out of the rubble,” Neil Handler wrote in the GoFundMe update. “Now with God’s grace, we stand next to each other sharing thanks and hope.”
The GoFundMe fundraiser has collected over $93,000 as of July 16, and the funds will help support Jonah Handler as he gets through the difficult time following the unprecedented tragedy. Donations will be used toward his medical expenses following the Surfside collapse, as well as fund mental health treatments, the replacement of personal items lost in the debris, and “his future education and dreams,” according to the page.
The update, written by Jonah’s father, Neil Handler, explains that the 15-year-old boy is still “recovering from his physical injuries” but that it is all “bittersweet” because Jonah Handler will have to grow up “without his mom,” Stacie Fang. Neil also takes the time to express gratitude for the first responders and rescuers who risked their lives to save his son from the Champlain Towers South building after it tragically fell.
“Jonah, myself, Veronica, and the entire Handler/Fang Family have no words to express the gratitude and respect for these men and women who allowed God to use them as His hands to rescue Jonah,” the update read. “We have also been overwhelmed and humbled by all those who have supported us with donations, food, clothing, and care (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) during this unimaginable time in his and our lives.”
Neil Handler concluded the update with a very special thanks to those who pulled Jonah Handler from the rubble, “especially Dave, Charlie, Kenny, Corey, Cesar, and Alex.” Attached to the written update are three heartwarming pictures, which show Jonah Handler, who only survived the devastating collapse because of his rescuers, next to the first responders who were there to pull him out.
The 15-year-old boy is smiling, arms crossed, in between two sets of hulking heroes, who all seem extremely touched to be honored by the family. It was just over three weeks ago that Jonah Handler was trapped inside the rubble of the Champlain Towers South when it tragically collapsed, pinning over a hundred people beneath its debris.
Jonah Handler was in the apartment with his mother, Stacie Fang, when the building fell, but only the teenage boy was saved. Stacie Fang was one of the first individuals confirmed dead after the tragedy, and her son’s rescue has since become a viral video – with major news stations running in after the heroic moment was revealed.
In the video, first responders can be seen pulling Handler from the tangled debris of the Champlain Towers South Condo, not long after a section of the 12-story building collapsed early morning on June 24. The emergency workers lifted Jonah Handler and placed him on a stretcher before he was whisked away to a nearby hospital.
In a statement from one of Handler’s saviors, Nicholas Balboa explained how he found the boy stranded within the building’s remains. “At first I thought it was a thunderstorm but then I felt a shake and I knew thunder doesn’t make the ground shake,” Balboa explained. “I knew it wasn’t normal so I decided to figure out what was going on.”
In his investigation, Balboa located the 15-year-old boy under a pile of glass and rebar. The first responder claimed it looked like a wall or a support beam had fallen on Jonah Handler. So he and his team went for help.
“He was saying, ‘Please don’t leave me, don’t leave me, don’t leave me,’” Nicholas Balboa told reporters. “So I told him, ‘We’re right here. We won’t leave you.’ That’s when I tried to signal police officers and firefighters to get over there.”
The heroic save of Jonah Handler has been marked as one of the great success stories of the Surfside collapse search and rescue operation – an operation that has since been marred with disaster. As of Friday, 97 people have been confirmed dead and eight remain unaccounted for. According to The New York Times, 35 people escaped with their lives from the in-tact portion of the building, and only two survivors were pulled from the rubble.