Nicholas Balboa was walking his dog near his home when he “felt the ground shake, felt like an earthquake” — then rushed to the partially collapsed Miami condo tower, where he heard a boy crying for help.
He told CNN that the first thoughts that came to his mind when he saw the debris from a large portion of the Champlain Towers building “were the images of 9/11.”
“I was thinking to myself, ‘How could anyone survive?’” Balboa told the network.
“As I was thinking that, I heard a voice yelling,” he said, adding that as he got closer, he saw the boy “sticking his hand up through the debris and I could see his hand and fingers wiggling.”
Balboa said he and another person climbed up the mound of rubble to help, and then found police and firefighters to assist.
“So then they began their efforts to get him out. It was him and his mother. We could hear him. We could see him clearly. His mom, we weren’t able to see, we weren’t able to hear her, so I don’t know what her status is, but god willing, she’s OK,” he added.
The child was under his bed frame and mattress.
“He was obviously sleeping,” Balboa said. “I can only imagine how many people were in their apartments either sleeping or watching TV or just whatever, just living their lives, unbeknownst to them the building was about to break away.”
Describing the scene of the devastation, he said, “it was almost out of a horror movie.”
“I have no idea if it wasn’t for us — myself and the other gentleman — being on the back side of the building and as quiet as it was, I have no idea how long it would have been until they found him,” he added.