MIAMI – After 29 emotionally and physically difficult days of search, rescue, and recovery efforts at the site of the Champlain Towers South condominium collapse, members of two task forces were saluted as they demobilized Friday at noon.
“Providing closure to families was the ultimate test of everybody here, and I think we did our best to do that,” said Scott Dean, the leader of Florida Task Force 2.
Miami-Dade County said that the fire department’s role in recovering remains has finished. Police and forensic specialists continue their work to identify human remains in the disaster and also to recover personal belongings from the rubble.
The first responders worked 12-hour shifts since the tragic collapse on June 24 that killed at least 97 people. At least one more person believed missing has yet to be identified.
WATCH A REPLAY OF THE TASK FORCE 2 PROCESSION BELOW:
The Task Force 2 team left from Surfside at noon and a procession continued to the City of Miami Fire Rescue Headquarters at 1151 Northwest 7th Street. They were met with a water-cannon salute.
As Dean and his team made that trip, his wife Shaun eagerly awaited.
“He’s our local hero,” she said.
#Voices from #Surfside: #Taskforce2 leader Scott Dean hugs his sons Jax (6yo) & Landon (8yo) and gingerly kisses his 1-year-old baby Maddox. For the past month working #Surfside he’s had just one day home with them. His wife Shaun, proudly beaming his way, says he’s ‘our hero’. pic.twitter.com/axCRxZEiXW— Christina Boomer Vazquez (@CBoomerVazquez) July 23, 2021
Dean hugged his sons Kax, 6, and Landon, 8, and gingerly kissed his baby Maddox. Over the past 30 days, just one was spent at home.
“It’s a good thing,” he said, holding back tears. “Very good thing. We missed them.”
Nichole Notte, another member of Task Force 2, returned home to her 4-month-old baby Luca.
“It was extremely grueling,” she said. “Especially having a baby at home and seeing the things that we have seen, it’s hard. It’s harder. It’s personal.”
#Voices from #Surfside: For the last month of her 4mo daughter’s life #FL #taskforce2 member Nichole Notte has been on 12hr shifts engaged in grueling work to find the missing. She says the emotional toll was most difficult…processing what she saw, missing her baby Luca at home. pic.twitter.com/pBcphDguNo— Christina Boomer Vazquez (@CBoomerVazquez) July 23, 2021
City of Miami Fire Chief Joseph Zahralban acknowledged that for so many here, the end of this mission is the start of mental health healing.
“This is a weight that you will carry with you for some time,” he said. “It is OK if you are having problems, it is OK if it becomes difficult for you to deal with. If you can’t sleep at night, call me.”
Members of Task Force 1 were honored at a separate ceremony in Doral at Miami-Dade Fire Rescue headquarters Friday afternoon.
At that ceremony, county Fire Chief Alan Cominsky saluted the firefighters who worked 12-hour shifts while camping out at the site.
“It’s obviously devastating. It’s obviously a difficult situation across the board,” Cominsky said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the men and women that represent Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.”
The first responders said their biggest reward is the comfort and relief they hope they brought to the families of those who lost loved ones at Surfside.
[ALSO SEE: READ STORIES ABOUT THE VICTIMS]
Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava released a statement, saying:
“The men and women of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue ran into a collapsed building on the early morning of June 24 and haven’t stopped since. They are true superheroes who have stepped up to serve this community in the wake of unprecedented disaster – not just by leading the search and rescue and recovery operation but through the care and compassion they demonstrated to all the families, doing everything they could to bring closure to those who lost loved ones. We’re also very grateful to Miami-Dade Police Department which has been leading the investigation since the beginning, and now continues the challenging work of continuing to sift through millions of pounds of debris, searching for remains and personal items to bring closure to families.”