Amnon Leibowitz (l) and Micaela Naibryf at the NYC Marathon, Nov. 7, 2021. (Screenshot/CBS News) (Screenshot/CBS News)

Woman who lost brother in Surfside building collapse runs NYC marathon alongside IDF soldier from rescue mission.

By Shiryn Ghermezian, The Algemeiner

The 50th annual New York City marathon on Sunday brought together a woman whose brother died in the July collapse of a Surfside, Florida condominium and a member of an Israel Defense Forces’ team who took part in the recovery effort, CBS reported.

Micaela Naibryf and Amnon Leibowitz crossed the finish line side by side after pledging to run in the marathon in memory of Nabibryf’s brother Ilan, who was staying in the Champlain Towers South condominium to attend the funeral of a friend’s father. Leibowitz also ran on behalf of first responders around the world.

The two friends trained together for the marathon from a distance, with Naibryf in Chicago and Leibowitz in Israel. Naibryf ran on Sunday wearing shoelaces from a pair of shoes given to her by Ilan, while both runners wore matching shirts designed by Leibowitz’s daughter.

Naibryf and Leibowitz met days after the collapse of the high-rise condo building near Miami Beach, which killed 98 people. Leibowitz was a member of the IDF National Rescue Unit that traveled to Florida to help victims trapped under the rubble of the collapsed building.

“I think we kind of just clicked, we were speaking the same language,” Naibryf told the outlet. “We’re both engineers … we’re both, I think, very logical, and I think that’s how we first started to bond.”

Leibowitz, a structural engineer and lieutenant colonel with the Israeli Home Front Command, has been a part of rescue and recovery missions around the world for more than 20 years. He told CBS he had never spoken to family members of the missing until meeting Naibryf.

“We try to totally make like a wall between the rescuer and the families because you can’t concentrate and be focused on your work when you have an emotional thing,” Leibowitz explained. “But Mica is different. It’s like family.”

Leibowitz was among the rescuers who found Ilan’s body, hours before Naibryf learned the news. She said, “I remember saying hi to [Amnon]. And, you gave me a hug. And I knew based on that hug that they had found him. I didn’t have proof. But I just knew. And then a couple of hours later, we got the call.”

Naibryf added, “I feel like sometimes, you know, I’m running, I see a leaf fall and I think, the building fell and I go back to the point in time where I’m thinking, ‘How did my brother feel those five seconds when the building was falling?’”

“I know it’s not healthy but being able to talk about this with Amnon and tell him, you know, ‘I’m not having a great day,’ he gets it,” she continued. “And I think he relates it all back to the running and says, you know, ‘You’re not a quitter. You’re strong.’ So it gives, it definitely gives me that strength.”