SURFSIDE, Fla. – It’s been two months since the partial collapse of the Champlain Towers South condo killed 98 people in Surfside.
Loved ones of a family lost in that horrible tragedy gathered over the weekend in a very special way, giving back to Mother Earth.
Early Saturday morning, family and friends of Marc, Anaely, Lucia and Emma Guara got together on the beach at Haulover to honor their memory by protecting the one thing they loved more than anything.
“We know they loved the ocean, the beach,” nephew Tommy Hurst said. “As a family, we really wanted to do something to make them smile. And we know they’re going to be proud of this.”
The Guaras were among the victims who died when part of the condominium suddenly came crashing down in the wee hours of June 24.
The wounds are still fresh, but a beach cleanup to keep their legacy alive is part of the healing process.
“To see a building like that come down in such a way, then to have so many special people perish — I wanted to do something to mark his life and my love for him and for my community, and so that’s why I’m here,” said Marc Guara’s friend Gina Robichaux.
Armed with pickers, buckets and gloves — and wearing T-shirts with the image of the loved ones they lost — dozens attacked the beach and jetty north of the inlet, collecting bottles, pieces of plastic and other debris, restoring the natural balance of a place so very dear to this family.
“I know that by doing this Marc, Anna, Lucia and Emma are smiling along with the others that we lost,” Hurst said.
“They loved the beach,” added Digna Rodriguez, Anaely’s sister. “It was their love, and that’s where they are right now.”
Rodriguez said her niece, 10-year-old Lucia, would often clean the beach with her father, wanting to preserve her precious backyard.
“Lucia cared very much about the environment,” Rodriguez said.
Friends of the girls also joined in to lend a hand and show their love.
“I’m happy that I get to do this, because I really miss her and I’d like to do something in honor of her,” said Lyla Thurber, Lucia’s best friend. “And I’ve been sad, so I’m happy that I get to do something for her.”
“She would be happy that the earth is being saved,” added Lucia’s friend Isabella Cisternino.
And saving life is what this was all about.
“By cleaning up the beaches, we’re protecting the turtles and all the other critters that are out there from our destructive practices,” said Dave Doebler, co-founder of VolunteerCleanup.org.
That nonprofit helped the family organize the event.
“I think [Marc] would be very honored that people are thinking of him and his family but also thinking of a greater cause,” said his cousin Peter Milian. “He always lived believing that there was always something greater than us.”
When the day was over, a whole lot of trash was removed from the beach and the jetty — 140 pounds of it.
“I think after today they’ll all four of them have big smiles on their face,” Hurst said. “And really everyone in the Champlain Towers. It was a big tragedy. And I think they all loved the ocean and the beach, so hopefully, we can make some people smile above us.”
Family members also created a fundraiser to collect donations for VolunteerCleanup.org and the 2022 Biscayne Bay Marine Health Summit If you’d like to contribute, click here.