HOUSTON - Family and friends are remembering 21-year-old Andreas Giannitsopoulos.
The Houston man was found by rescuers in Surfside, Florida this week. He had been staying with his godfather, when the 12-story condo collapsed.
"The first thing I saw was the pool," said Athanasia Giannitsopoulos, Andreas’ sister. "I knew immediately, from spending so much time [there], that was where my brother was."
We met with Athanasia Friday outside St. Thomas High School. Athanasia says Andreas is her only sibling.
"I’ll never be an only child, because I know he’ll always be with us. But, it’s going to be really weird," said Athanasia.
According to Athanasia, Andreas was a rising senior at Vanderbilt University and an athlete in high school. Athanasia says her family never gave up hope while rescuers spent days checking the rubble for survivors.
"My whole family was like no, he’s alive in there," said Athanasia. "[After] we got the news, we don’t know how to live with ourselves. He was everything to everyone."
The 21-year-old had been staying with his godfather, 54-year-old Manuel "Manny" LaFont. Athanasia says LaFont was like family to them. LaFont and Andreas have been identified as two of the at least 22 confirmed victims killed in the building collapse. As of right now, 126 people remain missing.
"They loved each other," said Athanasia. "They had a father-son bond. It’s my dad’s best friend."
Staff members at St. Thomas High School remember their former student for his success in and outside of the classroom. Father James Murphy says Andreas had a great future ahead of him.
"You hate losing a life that is so filled with hope and direction," said Father Murphy. "We take this opportunity to realize how precious every moment is."
Flowers, pictures, and stuffed animals have been placed next to a mural of Andreas outside St. Thomas High School. The memorial was growing Friday afternoon.
"He was the best person I’ve ever met in my life," said Athanasia. "He was just so kind."