Widow says talk of development to be built at Surfside site disrespectful

Full memorial on property where Champlain Towers South stood would be right thing to do

The wife of a doctor whose body has yet to be recovered says that building a memorial at the site only cause her more pain and suffering.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – It’s been 20 days since the collapse of the Champlain Towers South. Soriya Cohen is still waiting for rescuers to find her husband’s body.

Dr. Brad Cohen’s brother, Dr. Gary Cohen was identified. The town of Surfside’s mayor announced on Monday that they believe they have found Brad’s ring and his car, but Soriya doesn’t know if his body will ever be found.

Now, there’s talk of some type of development where the Champlain Towers South stood or a partial memorial at the site, which has the grieving wife pleading that the spot be preserved.

Cohen said she wants a full memorial in its place to honor her husband and the others who lost their loves.

“I can’t even imagine such a desecration,” Soirya Cohen said. “Imagine if that was your spouse, your parent or your grandparent and to make money, they built on top of it.”

She said her husband followed Jewish law to the letter. “The halachic about proper burial and cemeteries, it certainly should apply to him.” Kavod hamet, showing proper respect to the dead, has always been a deeply rooted tradition within the Jewish people.

“I’m asking people to respect that and respect the families and the people who have already suffered so much and not to add to our pain,” Cohen said.

[Related: The latest update | Who are they? Stories of the victims of Surfside]

Officials have offered their views about a memorial at the site.

At a news conference, Miami-Dade County Mayor Danielle Levine-Cava said that a memorial is needed. “Exactly where it will be is going to be determined.”

Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said: “We are going to look for guidance from families.”

And the vice mayor of the town of Surfside said: “I think what should be on that site is what the family members decide.”

The emptiness of the unknown is heartbreaking for Soriya.

“It’s almost like a mourning process or a Shiva process that goes on and on and on, but yet you didn’t have the funeral,” she said. “I’m not even 100 percent sure he is going to be found because they looked in his apartment and they only found his brother,” she said.

Whether there is a memorial on the site or not is sure to become an issue. On Tuesday, for the very first time, we heard that some families want to rebuild on the site. But for Soriya Cohen, if her husband’s body is never found, she said the area where Champlain Towers South once stood should be considered a holy site and nothing should be built on it.


Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez said that the website SurfsideAssistance.com has been set up so people can apply for help if affected by the tragedy.

Those wishing to donate to help the impacted families can click here.

CLICK HERE for complete coverage of the condo collapse.

About the Authors:

Reporter Rosh Lowe has been covering news for nearly two decades in South Florida. He joined Local 10 in 2021.

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.