‘Don’t give up hope,’ local leaders tell families of Surfside missing

Local leaders, experts and rescue officials tell families not to give up hope on loved ones being rescued.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – Relatives of those missing in the collapse at the Champlain Towers in Surfside were bussed to the site on Collins Avenue on Sunday and Monday just to be closer to their loved ones.

“For some of those, they saw what they needed to see. Perhaps start processing information that has been difficult to accept up to this point, but it was a different experience for every single person that was there,” said Maggie Castro of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.

On Sunday, some of the families that did go to the site were seen breaking down, yelling the names of their loved ones aloud and telling them to “come out.”

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The families of the missing are all grieving differently.

“I don’t need to go there. If my mom wants to go, but it’s not a need that I have. I know they are in heaven,” one woman whose family member is missing told ABC News about the site visit.

Rachel Spiegel’s mother, Judith, is one of the many unaccounted for. Rachel said that the last time she and her mom spoke, it was about a dress that she had just bought for her 4-year-old granddaughter.

“My mom is the best person on the planet,” Rachel said. “No matter where my mom is, she’s with us no matter what, through thick and thin. I can’t even understand what even happened and the timing of it all, but my mom loves us and she would’ve wanted Scarlet to wear that dress loud and proud, and she did.”

Temple Beth Am has set up a support fund in the name of Judy Spiegel.

Very frank conversations are being had every day at the family reunification center in Surfside. Still, search and rescue teams in the briefings, local leaders and experts say, that despite the challenges and appearances, they’re still not giving up hope.

Like many, former Miami Dade Mayor and Current Congressman Carlos Gimenez, who was also a firefighter, is insisting this isn’t over just yet.

“You don’t want to call something off too early and then find out later that somebody was there alive, and you could have gotten to them, so you need to give them time,” Gimenez said.

“You got 240 search and rescue personnel all over that pile. We were told today that we are going to enhance that,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.

Castro pointed out that there have been instances where people were recovered alive.

“There have been victims found in rubble up to 108 hours after a collapse. So, we are going to continue to keep hope,” Castro said.

About the Authors:

Andrew Perez is a South Florida native who joined the Local 10 News team in May 2014.

Michelle F. Solomon is a multi-platform producer/reporter for Local10 and is the podcast producer/reporter/host of the station's original, true-crime podcast The Florida Files and producer of Local10.com's DigiShorts.