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Grandmother’s mementos found in Florida condo rubble

Grandmother's mementos found in Florida condo rubble

The family of a grandmother who is still unaccounted for following the Florida building collapse says cherished keepsakes belonging to her were discovered in the rubble — giving them hope that they will find her alive.

Mike Noriega, 36, said he stumbled across an old photo of his missing grandmother, Hilda Noriega, 92, her late husband and their infant son in the mangled debris when he and his father rushed to Champlain Towers South following the disaster on Thursday morning.

“Some miracles are very big, others are small,” Mike said.

There was also a birthday card in the rubble that Hilda’s friends from prayer group sent her two weeks earlier with the acronym “ESM,” Spanish for “hand-delivered,” scrawled across the yellow envelope with a butterfly etching.

Noriega said the family is clinging to hope that Hilda will be found alive after finding the mementos.

“There was a message in the mess of all this,” Mike said. “It means not to give up hope. To have faith.”

Mike Noriega holding a birthday card.
Mike Noriega said his grandmother was a sweet, loving woman who had raised a family in the US after coming from Cuba in 1960.
AP

Mike, who last spoke to his grandmother the day before the disaster, said that she was an independent and lively retiree, who had lived in the condo for more than 20 years.

“The youngest 92-year-old I know … 92 going on 62,” he said.

But after losing her husband six years ago, Hilda had been ready to move elsewhere — and the condo had been put up for sale so that she could move in with relatives.

“When you lose a spouse, you want to be surrounded by family … and she wanted to spend more time with her family and grandchildren,” Hilda’s daughter-in-law, Sally Noriega said.

Hilda Noriega on a boat.
Hilda Noriega had lived in the Champlain Towers condo for more than 20 years.
AP

Noriega said the 92-year-old was a sweet, loving woman who had raised a family in the US after coming from Cuba in 1960.

“She was just one of those people who from the first time she met a person she instantly loved that person, and that person instantly loved her,” she said.

Hilda’s relatives are among the dozens of families waiting for answers about their missing loved ones.

The confirmed death toll climbed to five on Saturday as rescuers battled fire and smoke to search for 156 unaccounted for residents.

“Our top priority continues to be search-and-rescue and saving any lives that we can,” Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

With Post wires

About the author

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James Partridge

James has worked in various news organizations and now aims to make Stock Market Pioneer one of the best and fastest growing news websites in the U.S. He contributes to the US and World sections.

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