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Biden Asks to Meet Girl Praying at Rubble

12-year-old 'was just lost,' Surfside mayor says
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 2, 2021 1:55 PM CDT

(Newser) – Gazing at the mountain of rubble that had buried her father and uncle, a 12-year-old girl moved away from her relatives, sat down by herself and pulled out her phone. She opened a collection of Psalms and began to pray. Elisheva Cohen's moment of reflection at the site of the Florida condominium collapse captivated the Surfside mayor and led to an introduction to President Biden, who asked to meet her Thursday when he arrived, per the AP. For days, families were kept away from the collapse site, which had been deemed unsafe. Then earlier this week, relatives were taken there briefly. Some shouted the names of loved ones and friends, hoping to hear their cries for help. Others cried. Elisheva sat down alone, away from her mother and brother, and began to read prayers.

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Mayor Charles Burkett soon noticed her and knelt beside her to ask if she was OK. "Yes," the girl told him. "And that really brought it home to me," Burkett said. "She wasn’t crying. She was just lost. She didn't know what to do, what to say, who to talk to." Only six months ago, Elisheva celebrated her bat mitzvah with her mother and father, Brad Cohen, one of about 130 people missing under the rubble. The mayor said the most moving moment of Biden's visit was when he shared Elisheva's story with the president. “I wanted him to know and see the face of that little girl who is praying for her father across from the rubble,” he said. “He looked at me and said, ‘Would you please bring her to me right now?’” Police went to get Elisheva. Biden walked up to her and they hugged.

(Read more Florida condo collapse stories.)

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