NASHVILLE, Tenn (WKRN) — Over the last year, Stephen Phraner shared an on-campus apartment with four other Vanderbilt University students, including 21-year-old Andres Giannitsopoulos.
When the Champlain Towers collapsed last week in Surfside, Florida, Phraner had no idea his former roommate, Giannitsopoulos, was there visiting a close, family friend.
“Actually, the night before the condo fell, that Wednesday night, he texted me congratulating the Vandy baseball team on the win,” Phraner said. “I didn’t see it until the next day and I believe the condo had already fell by that time.”
Phraner was in Omaha, Nebraska with the Vanderbilt baseball team when the condominium came crashing down. The team was competing in the college world series. Phraner says receiving the tragic news during such a joyful time was difficult.
“It’s almost comparable to like a 9/11 situation,” Phraner said. “That was his first night there and he just happened to be wrong place, wrong time.”
Phraner says Giannitsopoulos was a man of faith, an athlete, and an outstanding friend. He says it’s hard to process the fact that his friend is gone.
“With God’s grace, you kind of see how we need to be grateful for every day we have on this earth, because you never know when the Lord might call you home,” Phraner said.
For now, Phraner says he’ll focus on the memories made with his tender-hearted friend and hopes others will do the same.
“We really do just have to remember all the great times and remember his impact on our lives and try to take that impact and make the absolute most of it. Use it as motivation. Live for Andres in this way and that’s absolutely what I am going to try and do,” Phraner said.
At least 18 fatalities have been confirmed in the Champlain Towers collapse and approximately 145 remain unaccounted for.
To donate to Giannitsopoulos’s family, click here.