Now that rubble is gone from Champlain Towers site, emptiness sets in for Surfside mayor

The new view of the land that once housed the Champlain Towers South is now nothing but emptiness.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – The new view of the land that once housed the Champlain Tower South is striking because of its emptiness. All the rubble has been cleared out.

Some of the debris is being saved in a warehouse as evidence for the investigation into how the building collapsed. The rest is being stored in a lot so survivors and families can go through it at a later date to retrieve their belongings.

As he looks at the empty site, Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett remembers when he was hoping for a miracle.

“It’s unsettling for all of us because it’s kind of over now and we were unable to pull anyone out. I’ve got to say, we left nothing on the table. We pulled out all the stops and everyone put their heart and soul into saving people if they could have been saved,” Burkett said.

In all, 97 bodies have been recovered with one person still missing.

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On Burkett’s wrist, he wears the bracelet 12-year-old Elisheva Cohen, who lost her father in the collapse, Dr. Brad Cohen.

Burkett said that Elisheva made the bracelet for him.

Burkett said she was at the community center with comfort dogs when she gave it to him. He said she had hope that her father, an orthopedic surgeon, would be found alive.

“He’s a doctor so he fixes people that have their bones crushed and now that it’s happened to him, so he should be saved just like he saves other people,” Elisheva said when the tower first collapsed and before her father was declared dead..

For Burkett and the families, it has been a long month. It began with hope and then recovery and then removing mountains of rubble and now desolation. All people can do when they come by the memorial is pray.

“I am a man of faith. I believe in God. I believe he’s got a hand in this and he will give the families the comfort they need,” Burkett said.

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's DigiShorts.