On the morning of June 24, Daniel Groves and his family woke up to what sounded like “bombs dropping in the air.” When Groves rushed out the balcony of his hotel in Surfside, Florida, he couldn’t see anything but clouds of dust.
Then the entire hotel room started shaking, people in the hallways were screaming and the building alarms sounded.
“As we were evacuating, I couldn’t see anything. I really thought we were in a tornado or thunderstorm,” Groves told USA TODAY.
But when Groves walked out of the hotel, he saw half of the Champlain Towers building in pieces next door to the building where he and his family were staying.
Shocked and confused, Groves recorded what he saw to send to family and friends.
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In the video Groves recorded, people are heard screaming and praying.
“The scene was something out of a nightmare, people crying, looking for their friends and family. I saw things I never want to talk about again,” Groves said.
As Groves and others in the hotel were evacuated and waiting outside, he said he saw a young boy running up and down the street. Groves said the boy was screaming for his mother who lives in the Champlain Towers condos.
After a few hours standing in the street, Groves and the rest of the visitors in the hotel were taken to a nearby community center. He and his family were unable to grab any valuables or essentials from their room. Groves said his kids were in just a shirt and underwear while in the community center.
After a night in the community center, Groves and other hotel guests stayed in a separate hotel in downtown Miami. The family was finally able to retrieve their personal items on Tuesday and returned to their home in Georgia on Wednesday. Groves said the community center was full of displaced families searching for their loved ones.
Groves and his wife spent their last few days in Florida searching and thinking of the missing friends and people they met while vacationing.
“One night we were hanging out with a group of people at the beach and resort. Then the next night, they’re gone and we don’t know if they made it,” Groves said.
Groves said he will never forget what he saw that morning in Surfside, and he’ll never stop praying for the families affected.
“Our story is beyond different and fortunate than others. It’s heartbreaking, what we saw and heard, it was all devastating,” Groves said. “So I just urge everyone to not stop praying.”
Follow Gabriela Miranda on Twitter: @itsgabbymiranda
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