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Surfside Tragedy: Day of remembrance marks one year since condo collapse

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CBS News Miami Live

MIAMI - Friday, June 24th, marks one year since the tragedy at Champlain Towers South.

Ninety eight lives were lost when the condo partially collapsed at 1:22 a.m.

To honor the victims, there are a number of memorial events planned for the day. 

 

A year later: CBS4's Jim DeFede reflects on Surfside

SURFSIDE - CBS4's investigative reporter Jim DeFede reflected on the Surfside tragedy, a year after the collapse of the Champlain Towers South. 

By Mauricio Maldonado
 

Kevin Spiegel, who lost his wife Judith in the collapse, spoke at public memorial

SURFSIDE - At a public remembrance event marking one year since the collapse of Champlain Towers South, Kevin Spiegel spoke about the loss of his wife and best friend Judith. 

Kevin Spiegel, who lost his wife Judith in the collapse, addressed public memorial 06:52
By CBS Miami Team
 

Martin Langesfeld, who lost his sister Nicky in the collapse, addressed those at the public memorial

SURFSIDE - Among the speakers at the public memorial was Martin Langesfeld who lost his sister Nicky in the collapse.

Martin Langesfeld, brother of Nicky Langesfeld who died in collapse, speaks at public mem 04:09
By CBS Miami Team
 

Gov. Ron DeSantis will designate portion of Collins Avenue in memory of those who died

SURFSIDE - Governor Ron DeSantis addressed those gathered at a public remembrance ceremony marking one year since 98 people were killed when the Champlain Towers South collapsed in Surfside.

DeSantis said he received a call about the collapse at 3 a.m.

"The images in my mind for I was described to me as maybe some balconies had fallen or something that was potentially manageable. As I made my way down here, I started to see images on TV, and it looked, it looked more serious than that, but it didn't hit me, the full gravity, I don't think you could appreciate it until you were on the ground looking at it. You know, it was a massive collapse," said DeSantis.

He thanked the first responders for doing everything they could to save lives.

"These guys, the first responders were there, from the wee hours of the morning, they save people from the adjacent tower. And they were there working on that pile, doing whatever they could to try to save anybody who may have been a survivor. And I remember standing out there a day or two later, you'd see smoke, and it was a tough, tough situation. We had the people not only from Miami-Dade, we had teams end up coming from all over the state of Florida and even other states come to help. And so as governor, I just want to say thank you for stepping up and being there," said.

DeSantis said in the wake of the tragedy, he saw the entire community mobilize to support the families who were wondering what happened with their loved ones and other families who had been displaced.

"I think that that speaks a lot about this community and Surfside, also the greater community in South Florida, but we had people really from all across the state. And so in a very difficult time, you saw a lot of great, a great part of humanity coming forward to help those in need. I was very humbled to be able to see that in the state I'm fortunate to represent," he said.

DeSantis said it is important to make sure that the memories of those who died live on.

"I was happy in our budget to ask the legislature to dedicate an initial $1 million towards a memorial that can be constructed on this site and I'm happy to report that was included in the budget that I signed into law," he said.

The governor said there will also be another reminder of the remarkable lives lost in the tragedy.

"We want to make sure that people understand that and so we are going to be able to now designate this portion of Collins Avenue as 98 Points of Light road. So every time people drive by, they're going to be reminded that there are great people that lived in that tower and that this is a tragedy that wounded this community in our state," he said.

By CBS Miami Team
 

"We stand with you today": Dr. Jill Biden offers thanks, support at Surfside public remembrance event

SURFSIDE - First Lady Dr. Jill Biden addressed those gathered at a public remembrance one year after the tragic collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside.

"Today, we gather to remember the 98 people lost. On behalf of my husband, President Biden, whose heart and prayers have never left this community, we stand with you today and always. And as we gather, we express gratitude for this community," she said.

Mrs. Biden thanked the firefighters and other first responders who bound up wounds and spent weeks working to recover loved ones.

She also thanked members of the Surfside community that came together and those from across our country who donated and found ways to spread kindness.

"We honor the light you found in each other-a fellowship you never wanted to be a part of, but draw strength from just the same. If there is something strong enough to help us carry the burden of grief forward-something able to break its gravitational pull-it's love," she said. "The love that makes us tell that story one more time, that makes us laugh with tears in our eyes, and knows a part of them is still inside of us, even though they left before we were done needing them."

Mrs. Biden said the love of a community helps lift people up and helps carry them through times of sorrow.

"Take it one breath at a time. We are praying for you and grieving with you," she concluded. "God bless you."

By CBS Miami Team
 

Gov. Ron DeSantis remarks at Surfside remembrance event

SURFSIDE - Governor Ron DeSantis spoke at the public remembrance event marking one year since the Surfside collapse.

Gov. Ron DeSantis at Surfside remembrance event 06:07
By CBS Miami Team
 

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden speaks at Surfside public memorial

SURFSIDE - Dr. Jill Biden spoke at a public remembrance event marking one year since the Surfside tragedy. 

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden speaks at Surfside public memorial 02:20
By CBS Miami Team
 

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried proclaims June 24th Surfside Remembrance Day

TALLAHASSEE - Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried issued a proclamation declaring June 24th as Surfside Remembrance Day to honor the lives lost in the tragic collapse of Champlain Towers South.

"Today, we remember the 98 lives lost and many injured and displaced by this disaster at Champlain Towers South in Surfside. In their memory, we commit ourselves to understanding the causes of this incident and pledge to take every action to prevent a similar catastrophe from occurring," said Commissioner Fried.

The proclamation reads:

WHEREAS, The community of Surfside, Florida experienced a terrible tragedy on June 24, 2021, when the Champlain Towers South collapsed, killing 98 and displacing over 300 residents; and

WHEREAS, On this day one year ago, families rushed to the Surfside Community Center, seeking loved ones and answers for the sudden destruction of their home we remember the grief, terror and loss that gripped a small seaside community and our state; and

WHEREAS, The Champlain Towers South, built in 1981, were a living testament to the diversity of this nation, housing families from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, and a sizeable Jewish population; and

WHEREAS, The residents of Champlain Towers South were as diverse as their origins, including old and young families, retirees and students, along with children and grandparents living together in one building; and

WHEREAS, The disaster that tore these families apart will be remembered for the loss of so many precious lives; and

WHEREAS, The lives of the survivors, the victims' loved ones, our state and the Surfside community have been changed forever; and

WHEREAS, we will always remember and honor the precious lives that were lost that day and work to prevent another similar tragedy from occurring.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Nicole Fried, Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of Florida, do hereby proclaim today, June 24, 2022, as "Surfside Remembrance Day" and encourage all Floridians to honor the memory of those lost, injured and displaced in the tragic collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Florida. 

By John MacLauchlan
 

Surfside remembers 98 victims of condo collapse

SURFSIDE - A year ago in the middle of the night, a 12-story oceanfront condo building in Surfside came down with a thunderous roar, leaving a giant pile of rubble and claiming 98 lives - one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history.

The disaster at Champlain Towers South also turned into the largest emergency response that didn't involve a hurricane in Florida history.

Its victims were being honored Friday at events on the ground where, for two weeks last June and July, rescue crews descended from elsewhere in Florida and from as far away as Mexico and Israel to help local teams dig through the pile and search for victims.

Friday's agenda included a private overnight gathering for families to light a torch. First Lady Jill Biden was among speakers a public event organized by the town of Surfside that also included Gov. Ron DeSantis, local officials and relatives of the victims.

"We stand by you today and always," Biden said during comments briefly interrupted by a standing ovation when she mentioned the firefighters "who spent weeks working to recover your loved ones."

"If there is something strong enough to help us carry this burden of grief forward, something to break its gravitational pull, it's love," Biden said.

The speakers' stage was flanked by a large black banner with the Surfside town seal in gold, "Love Lives On" written in white and a rendering of two outstretched hands meeting.

Only two teenagers and a woman survived the fall and were pulled from the rubble, while others escaped from the portion of the building that initially remained standing.

Images of one survivor's rescue traveled widely, offering a glimmer of hope right after the collapse, but the long, grueling search produced mostly devastating results as families torturously waited only to learn about the remains of their loved ones.

Those missing in the collapse included the 7-year-old daughter of a firefighter who helped in the search, later found dead with her mother, aunt, and grandparents; a woman whose cries for help were heard in the early hours but suddenly stopped; and two sisters, 4 and 11, pulled from the rubble, who were so tiny they were buried in the same casket. A 12-year-old girl sat down to pray across the rubble for her physician father, who was ultimately found dead.

The victims included local residents as well as visitors who were Orthodox Jews, Latin Americans, Israelis, Europeans, and snowbirds from the Northeast.

The cause of the collapse remains under investigation by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, with the probe entering a new phase this month to cut and drill into concrete and steel. Champlain Towers South had a long history of maintenance problems, and shoddy construction techniques were used in the early 1980s. Other possible factors include sea level rise caused by climate change and damage caused by salt water intrusion.

Pablo Langesfeld, the father of a 26-year-old lawyer who had married and moved to the building a few months before the collapse, said that for him closure will not come until that investigation is completed.

"This is a nightmare that never ends," Langesfeld said.

The site where the building stood has been swept flat.

Although the investigation is expected to take years, a judge approved a compensation settlement topping $1 billion Thursday for the victims.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Michael Hanzman praised the dozens of lawyers involved, and a woman who lost her daughter called them heroes in black robes and business suits.

Hanzman said the compensation deal was extraordinary in its scope and speed.

"This settlement is the best we can do. It's a remarkable result," he said.

By Associated Press
 

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson statement on one year since Surfside collapse

MIAMI - Florida Congresswoman Frederica Wilson issued a statement on the tragedy in Surfside one year ago. 

"On June 24, 2021, we awoke to the unimaginable news of a building collapse that shocked and forever changed our communities. Today, we take a moment to honor the 98 victims who lost their lives, the grieving families, and the first responders who worked around the clock to rescue survivors. 

"Following the collapse, we saw first-hand an outpouring of support, love, and assistance from all over the world. The South Florida community is forever grateful for the support of all those who joined together to volunteer their time, effort, and financial support to help Surfside heal. Now, our sights must be set on the road ahead to learn from this tragedy and grow stronger together. 

"On this one-year mark, it is imperative that we renew our calls for immediate action and urge our state lawmakers to enact life-saving condominium reforms that will strengthen our building codes across the state. In Congress, I was proud to support $22 million in dedicated funding to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to conduct a technical investigation into the collapse and its causes, an important step towards ensuring this never happens again.

"Today, I will join First Lady Dr. Jill Biden along with other national, state, local, and faith leaders to stand alongside the people of Surfside and pay my respects to the victims of that fateful morning one year ago. I want to express my appreciation for President Biden's quick response and action from the very first day, bringing relief and healing to our South Florida communities."

By John MacLauchlan
 

Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava reflects one year since Surfside collapse

By John MacLauchlan
 

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue marks one year since Surfside collapse

By John MacLauchlan
 

Memorial events honor Surfside collapse victims one year after collapse

SURFSIDE - There are a number of memorial events to honor those who died in the tragic collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside one year ago.

Early Friday morning, dozens of family and friends gathered at the collapse site for a moment of silence. The moment of silence happened at 1:22 a.m., the time when part of the building collapsed taking 98 lives.

At 10 a.m., there will be a public memorial at the Surfside site. First Lady Dr. Jill Biden will attend the event.

CBS4 will bring that memorial to you LIVE on TV and on our streaming platform.

Memorial events to mark one year since Surfside condo collapse 03:57

Kevin Spiegel, who lost his wife Judith in the collapse, spoke Thursday night about what the last year has been like.

"This has been the most difficult year for me and my family in our whole lives. Judy was my best friend and that would be almost 40 years that we had been living together as partners and lovers. And I mean, you just turn that off like a light switch, it just doesn't feel comfortable," he said.

HCA Florida Aventura Hospital will be holding a moment of silence at 11:00 a.m. The moment of silence will be held in the Emergency Room, which responded to the mass casualty incident. 

At 7:30 p.m., there will be a special Mass of Remembrance at St. Josepth Catholic Church on Miami Beach.

Also Friday evening, there will be a prayer gathering on the beach behind the collapse site at 7 p.m. The sky will be lit up with 98 biodegradable memorial lanterns in memory of the lives lost. The public is welcome and encouraged to bring a blanket to sit on the sand. 

By Keith Jones
 

Family of Surfside collapse victims, survivors attend private memorial event

SURFSIDE - Friday morning dozens of family and friends gathered at the Surfside building collapse site for a moment of silence. The moment of silence happened at 1:22 a.m., the time part of the Champlain Towers South collapsed.

Michael Noriega spoke with CBS4 as he was leaving the private event. He told us it was a moment of reverence. Noriega lost his grandmother Hilda in the collapse.

Noriega said despite the moment of silence you could hear people crying in the background. Each family lit a torch for each of the 98 lives lost, in the order they were identified. 

"Each torch was lined up in front of the actual collapse side. So we were facing it and it was a combination of honoring our loved ones but also taking in the reality of the situation that they are no longer with us. There was a lot of tears, a lot of heartbreak, and a lot of people that were actually here for the first time ever taking it in," he said.

Family of Surfside collapse victims, survivors gather for private memorial 03:09
By John MacLauchlan
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