Justin Willis, a pitcher for the UConn baseball team, was vacationing with his family at the Champlain Towers condominium complex in Surfside, Florida when part of the building collapsed in a horrifying incident last week.
The collapse left at least 10 dead and more than 150 people missing.
Willis recently spoke to the Hartford Courant bout the terrifying collapse and how he and his family managed to escape the building and help others along the way.
“It felt like a first gust of wind from a storm,” Willis said. “Then the second one felt kind of like (Hurricane) Sandy, the way I remember it. It kind of seemed normal for the moment. Then the third one felt like a jet took off right on top of our building. I was expecting to see a plane come right over our balcony.
“Once we reached the beach, it kind of settled in. Like, wow, what just happened? I didn’t even think about it in the moment. I didn’t look back at the building. 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.”
Surveillance video shows the Surfside, FL condo building collapse.
A large section collapses — then seconds later another section collapses.
Video credit: Andy Slater pic.twitter.com/SjkPCpdqBG
— Brian Entin (@BrianEntin) June 24, 2021
Willis was playing video games in the early hours of the morning when dust began flying into the window of the apartment he and his family were at on the 11th floor of the beginning. Willis said that he and his sister were approximately 15 feet away from the collapse.
“I looked to my left and half of the apartment is gone, look forward and the elevator shaft is there and there’s no elevator, it’s just two holes,” Willis’ father, Albert Aguero, told NBC 4 New York. “Panic starts to set in, like we need to really run, because I don’t know if the rest of it is coming down.”
While rushing down the stairs, Willis and his family managed to help a family open a jammed door in the stairwell and also helped an elderly woman get out of the building to safety.
Willis recently finished his junior year at UConn with a perfect 4-0 record. He had previously played at Vanderbilt before transferring.