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Baby born day before condo collapse named for grandmother who died in building

"My daughter should follow in my mother's ways, connecting deeply with so many around the world in a positive, uplifting and spiritual way."
/ Source: TODAY

A baby girl born hours before the Surfside condo collapse in Florida was named after her grandmother, who was one of at least 95 people killed in the accident.

The baby's father, Dovy Ainsworth, posted on Facebook on June 23 that his wife, Sheva, had given birth to a baby girl. Just hours later, at around 1:30 in the morning on June 24, the 12-story condo building Champlain Towers South partially collapsed. Ainsworth's mother, Itty Ainsworth, 66, and her husband, Tzvi Ainsworth, 68, were identified as victims of the building collapse.

On July 13, Ainsworth shared a post commemorating his daughter's birth and name: Itta "Itty" Ainsworth. He told TODAY that it was the family's fourth child and first daughter and that there was "no doubt" that he would name her after his mother.

"It was just a very deep, very spiritual and very emotional moment that I will never forget."

"In the Jewish faith we strongly believe that the name carries a tremendous amount of spirituality and connection to a soul," Ainsworth said. "You try and name your child after someone great and special to bring that person's spirit, personality, character, down back into the world and manifest itself through this new person, who of course will have their own journey but will share some of those characteristics. For a girl, there has to be no greater woman than I would think about naming them after than my mother."

Also in attendance at the baby's naming ceremony was Colonel Golan Vach, the leader of a unit of the Israel Defense Forces that specializes in search and rescue operations. The rescue unit was present at the site of the collapse and helped American and Mexican rescue teams search for survivors and recover bodies. According to Ainsworth, Vach was part of the team who found and identified Itty and Tzvi's bodies after the collapse.

Rabbi Raphael Tennenhaus, who conducted the naming service and was the brother-in-law of Itty Ainsworth, told TODAY Parents that Vach had come to the house to tell Dovy Ainsworth that his parents had died instantly and had not suffered following the building's collapse.

"That was important for them to hear," Tennenhaus said.

Because of Vach's role in the search efforts, he was invited to stand beside the Torah during the prayer that announced the child's name.

"I approached him and said 'You know what, we're about to do a ceremony for the naming of my daughter and I can't think of a better person and a greater honor to give you for what you've done than being honored at the ceremony, where we name my daughter after my mother who you are responsible for finding, who you treated with the utmost dignity and respect," Ainsworth said, noting that the IDF had treated the bodies of his parents and others in the building with the appropriate customs.

"When they did the reading of the Torah, I did the Aliyah, which is a personal call to people to be called for different honors, and the final honor before the baby was named was given to this gentleman, who was a very special individual," Tennenhaus said. "It was very, very emotional."

In his post, Ainsworth also thanked Vach and the rescue unit, calling them "critically helpful and comforting through this process" and saying that he was "honored" to have Vach attend.

"I think it was the most powerful and special moment and opportunity that I will ever have in my life," Ainsworth told TODAY Parents. "I can't imagine something being more meaningful. It was just a very deep, very spiritual and very emotional moment that I will never forget. ... It was such a powerful moment and just realizing my parents weren't there was just incomprehensible."

According to an obituary for the couple, Tzvi and Itty Ainsworth were married for more than 40 years and spent most of their lives together in Australia. They recently moved to Florida to be closer to their adult children. Including Ainsworth, they had seven children and "many grandchildren."

Ainsworth said that his mother was his "biggest cheerleader" and his father was his "hero." Since the couple's deaths, community members have shared meaningful stories about the pair.

"Everybody's mom is an extraordinary woman to them, everybody's mom is the most caring and supportive ... Hearing these stories in the mourning period, I've realized my mom was that to so many people," said Ainsworth. "We're just hearing so many stories about her kindness ... How my parents had a heart of gold and an open house. ... They literally lived for their kids. Their entire life was based around me and my siblings."

Although the couple died just hours after their youngest grandchild was born, Ainsworth confirmed that they were able to meet the baby over FaceTime.

"This was the first girl, so I wanted to show her all the pink outfits, so I did do a FaceTime with my mom, and for some reason I took a screenshot," Ainsworth said. "... The baby definitely heard my mother's voice, my mother heard the baby."

Tennenahus said he had a short conversation with Itty about the baby's birth on June 23. It was the last time they spoke.

"She called me at 9:30 in the morning and said, in Hebrew, 'Many thanks,' and that was the last I heard from her," Tennenhaus said. "That was hours before the building went down."