A UConn pitcher and his family were able to make it out virtually unscathed and were able to save a woman as a Miami condo building collapsed last week, leaving nearly a dozen dead and more than 150 missing as of Tuesday.
Justin Willis, a junior from West New York, N.J., told the Hartford Courant on Saturday about how his family was able to get out of the building. He said he and his family were on vacation in Surfside, Fla., when he felt the building shake. Willis said he felt a “gust of wind” and likened it to Superstorm Sandy, a major storm that pounded the Northeast in 2012.
Willis said it sounded like a “jet took off right on top of our building. I was expecting to see a plane come right over our balcony.”
After the apparent collapse, Willis said he and his family gathered their belongings and walked down from their 11th-floor apartment to see what was going on. As they walked down, the Courant reported they saw the condo next to them was gone.
“The crazy part was looking in the hallway to our left. Me and my sister in the living room were probably the closest, were maybe 15 feet away from where the building ended up just breaking off. It just gives you a new sense. I’ve always been a positive kid. I like to think I’ve had some unreal experiences in baseball and what my parents have sacrificed for me, but it definitely gives you a new meaning,” he told the paper.
According to the Courant, the family saw a woman praying in Spanish. Willis described her to be in her late 80s, and Willis said his father, who can speak Spanish, told her that they would get her out of the building. He said the family got her down to the first floor and was able to get her over a wall and broken tiles.
Willis and his family returned home over the weekend. He just wrapped up the 2021 season with the Huskies.
He pitched in 16 games and recorded a 2.60 ERA. He pitched well in the Big East Championship but didn’t see action in the NCAA Tournament.