Amid anguish after building collapse, memorial, prayer circle help some cope with Surfside tragedy

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Makeshift memorial honors victims of building collapse in Surfside.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – There were fresh flowers and candles in front of a fence decorated with the pictures of some of the people who relatives said were unaccounted for on Saturday in Miami-Dade County’s town of Surfside.

The makeshift memorial was near to what was left of the 12-story Champlain Towers South where search-and-rescue teams were at work. They faced the rubble with hope even amid a tedious effort complicated by rain, an unstable structure, spontaneous fires, and gusty winds.

Flowers and candles have bene placed in front of a fence decorated with the pictures of some of the people who relatives said were unaccounted for.

“I saw them looking over the rubble, so if they are, that is hope,” said Lee Soto, whose friends Nikki Langsfield and Luis Sadovnic are missing following the collapse. “What were they thinking in that 10 seconds that they had of life? Did they say, ‘I love you’? Did they say, ‘This is it’?”

North of Champlain Towers South, a group from Ruth K. Broad Bay Harbor K-8 Center in Bay Harbor Islands participated in a prayer circle on the beach.

Dislamy Pelayo was among the organizers of the Friday afternoon event.

“We are all hurting and a single prayer is very powerful; praying in unity is more powerful,” Pelayo, 38, said through tears.

Officials said that as of early Saturday morning, there were 159 people unaccounted for and four dead.

Family reunification center

The town was hosting those who are waiting for information about unaccounted relatives after the partial collapse at Champlain Towers South at the community center at 9301 Collins Ave. On Friday, they moved the relatives to the Grand Beach Hotel Surfside at 9449 Collins Ave. Levine Cava said relatives had two daily briefings.

For information or to report the status of a loved one who is unaccounted for, call 305-614-1819 or 305-993-1071.

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About the Authors:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.

Louis Aguirre is an Emmy-award winning journalist who anchors weekday newscasts and serves as WPLG Local 10’s Environmental Advocate.