The Washington Post
By Caroline AndersJuly 10, 2021|Updated yesterday at 8:51 p.m. EDT30
A black cat crossed paths with rescuers, and Surfside, Fla., rejoiced.
The Gonzalez family, one of the many devastated by the collapse of Champlain Towers South, was missing its black cat. Angela Gonzalez and her 16-year-old daughter had fallen several stories when the building collapsed, CBS Miami reported, and Angela broke her pelvis but still managed to drag her child from the rubble.Support our journalism. Subscribe today.
The mother and teenager are recovering from serious injuries, a family friend told The Washington Post. The family’s older daughter was not in the condo at the time of the collapse. The family friend said Edgar Gonzalez, the father, was among the missing as of Saturday morning.
Sixteen days after the collapse — when the rescue mission had shifted to a recovery, the remaining condos had been knocked down and hope was waning for many — Binx the cat was reunited with his family. A small army of animal lovers made the reunion possible.
In seconds, hundreds of lives changed forever. For many, the outcome hinged on their condo number.
It started with the mysterious black cat whom onlookers saw wandering amid the pile that used to be Champlain Towers South in the days and weeks after the collapse. He looked like the cat from Unit 904, whose face had been circulating on fliers and social media posts, but his ear was tipped — a marker of a stray cat that has been spayed or neutered. The cat in the photos did not have that marker.
People kept telling Linda Diamond, chair of Miami Beach’s Animal Welfare Committee, that they were seeing a black cat they didn’t recognize, she said.
Diamond is also president of SoBe Cats Spay and Neuter, a nonprofit that works to control the Miami Beach cat population and place friendly cats in homes. She thought the new kitty might just be one of the area’s more than 15,000 strays.
On Thursday night, Diamond said, she got a call from Miami Beach Police officer Mary Garcia, who works alongside SoBe Cats to help animals.
Garcia, founder of Miami Beach Animal Advocates, had seen photos of the missing pets from apartment 904: Binx the black cat, another cat named Hippo and a dog called Daisy. She had also heard from several people who had seen a black cat roaming the rubble, meowing loudly at rescuers and trying to jump into their arms. Before she left the area Thursday, she asked an officer at the scene to call her if she saw the cat.
An hour later, she got the call. The cat was back.
“Talk about things aligning in the universe,” Garcia said in an interview with The Washington Post.
Garcia called Diamond to tell her that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had the cat in a trailer near the site of the collapse. Diamond immediately messaged SoBe Cats’ feeding network, a group of volunteers who help feed and care for the community’s strays.
Diana Peluzzo was at the gym when she saw the message, so she racked up her weights and headed toward the trailer. Luckily, she had a spare cat carrier in her car.
“When I got word that we may have found the kitty that could bring some type of light to a family that is in dark times, it was a no-brainer,” Peluzzo said.
Florida condo tenants fled a collapsing building without their pets. Firefighters are trying to reunite them.
She scooped up the cat and took him to the Kitty Campus, a Miami Beach building leased by SoBe Cats and the Saving Sage Animal Rescue Foundation that functions in part as an adoption center.
“He was a little scared, but he let me pick him up, love on him,” said Peluzzo, who is studying to be a veterinarian.
She was worried the cat wouldn’t be the Gonzalez family’s, but she figured he had to be related to the building because he’d been seen so many times around the rubble.
“We were saying even if it’s not him, we really did hope that the family took him regardless, because he had some association with that building,” she said.
The cat wasn’t microchipped, and Diamond said black cats are difficult to identify, but this one had a few distinctive markings: the tipped ears, a narrow face, a tiny scar on the top of his head and a few white hairs on his chest.
He ate wet kitten food and settled into his crate. Video shows him reaching his paws out between the bars, big green eyes investigating the room.
Want to help the Surfside condo collapse victims? Here’s how.
The next morning, volunteer Carinne Tator was feeding cats at the Kitty Campus when she noticed the black cat staring at her and meowing.
“He was trying to tell me something!” she said, laughing. “Whenever you put him back in the cage, he was meowing again. He was very chatty.”
Tator has known a lot of cats in her life, she said, but this one had something special. He was adventurous and clearly wanted to find his family.
The Gonzalez family’s older daughter went to the Kitty Campus on Friday to take a look at the cat, Tator said. She FaceTimed her mother and sister to verify what she suspected — it really was Binx. The photos the advocates had seen were taken before his ear was tipped, Garcia said.
“Her smile was priceless,” Tator said. “I was praying for this little miracle to happen.”
In a video from Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Media and Public Relations team, the daughter confirms: “It’s definitely him.”
“I’m kind of shocked,” she says in the clip. “But we already had a feeling that if one of our animals were to make it, it would be him.”
Binx had been an outdoor cat before the Gonzalez family adopted him, Diamond said the older daughter told volunteers.
“I think what helped this guy out is that he used to live outside,” Diamond said. “I think he did so well because he was already a street-savvy little guy.”
Diamond said the building’s collapse has been overwhelmingly difficult for the community. She’s grateful for the glimmer of hope Binx’s story could bring.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava (D) offered Binx’s story as a heartening anecdote at her now-routine daily news conference Friday, which rarely offers good news. She called his story a “small miracle.”
Binx also happens to share a name with the immortal man-turned-cat Thackery Binx from the 1993 Halloween movie “Hocus Pocus.”
“He carried his name,” Tator said. “Binx is magical.”