SURFSIDE, Fla. – County and local officials gathered Thursday at the Surfside memorial wall to discuss a big question.
What is going to happen to this wall?
Just west of the site of the collapsed Champlain Towers South condo, where 98 people were killed, the memorial wall started with a few pictures and flowers and expanded into a blocks-long tribute to the victims.
“We do not want this thing to blow away, because we want to preserve it as it is,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said.
The memorial grew on the side of the Surfside tennis courts. It became a place for people to pay their respects. Those who drove by would pause, take pictures and remember the lives of those lost.
It’s a place members of the community still visit.
And although flowers have wilted, and pictures have faded, there is still the push to somehow preserve the memorial in some form or fashion. The question is how.
“It’s essential that we find a way to preserve all the memories and the outpouring of love,” said Rachel Johnson, communications director for Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s office.
Levine Cava released a statement later Thursday, saying: “Today we had a preliminary meeting to discuss how we can best work to preserve the extraordinary collection of memories and outpouring of love at the Surfside memorial wall for the long term. Our next step is to meet with the families and survivors, faith leaders, and the Surfside community to make sure all voices are heard as we determine the best path forward.”
Jorge Zamanillo, executive director of the HistoryMiami Museum, notes that “there’s a lot of layers of stories being told here. With the objects, the photos, the flowers the signs. So, our goal is to make sure that’s all preserved in some way.”
While families of the victims will be consulted, officials note that there is a race against time. A major storm can knock all of this away.
“It’s a significant issue,” Burkett said. “We need to act now.”