Who is Deven Gonzalez? Rescued Surfside girl, 16, apologizes to coach for missing practice
Despite undergoing multiple surgeries after being pulled from the rubble, the 16-year-old apologized to her coach profusely for missing their final practice
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA— The first thing on teenager Deven Gonzalez's mind, when she was pulled from the rubble of her Miami condo building, was that she had to compete in a major Volleyball tournament in a few days, firefighters who rescued her revealed.
Despite undergoing multiple surgeries for a broken femur, the 16-year-old athlete apologized to her coach profusely for missing their final practice. Her world revolved around volleyball -- playing beach volleyball, as part of her high school team, as well as with a competitive travel club team, ABC News reported.
“I said, ‘Let’s focus on you right now and not volleyball,'” recalled club coach Amy Morgan, who reportedly described Gonzalez as "extremely determined, passionate, and unrelenting in pursuing her goals."
Gonzalez, who lived with her parents on the ninth floor of the doomed Champlain Towers South, told her coach how they fell several stories before being rescued on the fifth floor. She and her mother were pulled from the rubble and hospitalized with serious injuries, Morgan told the Associated Press. The Surfside condo's partial collapse on June 24 has claimed dozens of lives. Gonzalez's own father, attorney Edgar Gonzalez, is reportedly one of the more than 120 who are still missing.
Family friend Joslyn Varona noted that Taylor Gonzalez, the family's eldest daughter, has been a source of strength for her mom and younger sister. She was not in the building at the time of the collapse. “This is a strong and wonderful family,” Varona said. “They have a lot of faith.”
Morgan said that Deven Gonzalez is yet to see her mother in person because they are in separate parts of the hospital. However, she reportedly video chatted with her mother a few days ago on her birthday. The 16-year-old aspiring athlete was conscious when the building collapsed and throughout her harrowing rescue. She is reportedly not able to sleep and is haunted by nightmares as she remembers the details vividly.
“I don’t know if she’s completely come to terms with everything. She has and she hasn’t,” said Morgan. According to her, Gonzalez was unaware of the extent of the catastrophe and the global attention it garnered. “She says, ‘My dad’s still missing. My dad’s still missing,'” the coach added. “She gets really choked up about it.”
Gonzalez reportedly took her first few steps recently. Morgan said it was “going to be a nasty, hard painful road, but I think she can do it." Her mother Angela Gonzalez is slated to undergo surgery this week for her extensive injuries but has been responsive to questions, according to family friend Varona. “There has not been any news on Edgar,” Varona wrote on Facebook. “We are still praying and hoping for a miracle.”
Coach Morgan said that Edgar and Angela Gonzalez were extremely involved with their daughter's volleyball training. She described the mother as the team therapist who was always listening to and encouraging the girls, while the father was always kind, gentle, and jolly. Edgar once helped prepare a massive BBQ feast for the team after a tournament, Morgan remembered. The family was reportedly about to leave for Orlando when the Champlain Towers South collapsed, and the father had been packed for two weeks out of excitement for the trip. “They're so loving, so supportive,” Morgan said. “I see a lot of (Deven's) strength coming from her parents.”
“Deven is such a hardworking and loving person,” her teammate Liyah Deveaux said Sunday, July 4, as quoted by ABC News. “We can’t wait for her to get back on her feet. We love and miss her so much.”
Meanwhile, a GoFundMe campaign has raised over $110,000 for the family.