For more than two weeks, the relatives of the 79 victims and the 61 missing persons have been huddled together in the large room. It was a new daily routine that they were forced to adopt by an unfathomable tragedy.
This small community, forged in tragedy, has seen many members arrive early and stay late to the meetings. They talk in small groups and linger. They hug one another, share water and tissues with each other. Rescuers from all countries are available to circulate the room and offer more information on days when it is difficult to find out.
Officials announced Wednesday that they would be switching from rescue to recovery but there was no plan to end the private briefings for families. Maggie Castro, a Miami Firefighter and Paramedic, stated that she keeps the family informed and has made her own connections to them.
Castro stated, "Obviously, this tragedy is terrible, but if there's one bright spot in all of this, it's to spend time with these families, watching the emotions come and go, and then watching them bond and grow through their stages."
Brad Cohen, Soriya Cohen's husband is still missing. Gary Cohen, her brother-in-law, was found by Soriya Cohen on Thursday. Her two children are asking rescuers for help to locate their father.
She said that the community had shown her so much love, recalling how they wrapped her in blankets, brought her food and coffee during the first days following the collapse, and "surrounded" her with emotional support.
In a text, she stated that she still had the blanket.
Rachel Spiegel, whose mother Judy is still missing, stated that she and her brother, as well as her father, have established connections with other families in the room. However, she did not call it comforting.
"I don’t know if it would be comfort, but we don’t know where my mom may be." She is still missing."
As officials announced that they would shift from rescue and recovery to help survivors, sobs could be heard. However, some families stated they wouldn't feel any different until they know the truth about their loved ones.
Spiegel stated that it was difficult to take in. Many people felt the shift. We just want to be reunited and find our mom. We still hope for the best. Once we find her, and reunite with her, we'll have this shift."
According to the Cohen family, it was painful not to have any updates on Brad Cohen.