Surfside 1 year later: Public memorial service held in honor of 98 lives lost

First Lady, other officials speak during service at site where Champlain Towers South once stood

Surfside created a space that allowed the families and loved ones of the 98 lost to grieve on the anniversary of the Champlain Towers South collapse.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – City officials hosted a public memorial Friday to honor the 98 victims of the Champlain Towers South collapse in Surfside.

Some of the grieving families, First Lady Jill Biden and Gov. Ron DeSantis were among the guests who gathered to mark the first year since the tragedy at 8777 Collins Ave.

“We stand by you today and always,” Biden said during comments briefly interrupted by a standing ovation when she mentioned the firefighters “who spent weeks working to recover your loved ones.”

“If there is something strong enough to help us carry this burden of grief forward, something to break its gravitational pull, it’s love,” Biden said.

Lazaro Carnero mourns for his best friend Edgar Gonzalez, during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The speakers’ stage was flanked by a large black banner with the Surfside town seal in gold, “Love Lives On” written in white and a rendering of two outstretched hands meeting.

“As a small town of eight blocks, we all had ties to somebody in that building,” Surfside Mayor Shlomo Danzinger said.

Those at the memorial, which was held just feet away from where the collapse occurred, told Local 10 News that it doesn’t feel like it’s been a year since the collapse, but it feels like it just happened yesterday.

First lady Jill Biden speaks during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

“This anniversary brings us together again in remembrance as we say to the families now as we said to you since day one, ‘You are not alone, we hold you in grief, your loved ones will not be forgotten,’” Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said.

Emotions were high at the site as these families are still trying to heal, remembering the good times, the challenges and the day their lives changed forever.

“I’m going through that pain, through that suffering, and there’s no words for it,” said Luis Bermudez, who lost his son in the collapse. “Thank you for being my son, for being the most important person in my life, for being my best friend and for always (being) there for me.”

Each victim’s name was read out loud followed by a moment of silence to honor those 98 souls lost.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis holds up a sign dedicated to the 98 people who lost their lives during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Gov. Ron DeSantis also spoke at Friday’s memorial service, announcing that a portion of Collins Avenue will now be called 98 Points of Light Road “so that every time someone drives by, they’re going to be reminded that there were great people who lived in that tower.”

Only two teenagers and a woman survived the fall and were pulled from the rubble, while others escaped from the portion of the building that initially remained standing.

Dalia Gutman, cousin of Ilan Naibryf, writes a message in her cousin's memory during a remembrance event at the site of the Champlain Towers South building collapse, Friday, June 24, 2022, in Surfside, Fla. Friday marks the anniversary of the oceanfront condo building collapse that killed 98 people in Surfside, Florida. The 12-story tower came down with a thunderous roar and left a giant pile of rubble in one of the deadliest collapses in U.S. history. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

It took nearly a month for crews to recover the remains and for authorities to identify the 98 victims. The obstacles included heavy rain, flooding, and even fires, but the job was done.

The property was sold to a developer. A judge approved a civil settlement. And the tragedy prompted a movement to increase the safety of aging condominium buildings in Florida and around the country.

Watch videos

5 PM REPORT

Surfside held a public memorial on Friday at the site where the Champlain Towers South collapsed last year.

4 PM REPORT

First Lady Jill Biden and Gov. Ron DeSantis were among those who attended a memorial service on Friday in Surfside to mark the anniversary of the Champlain Towers South collapse that killed 98 people.

3 PM REPORT

On the anniversary of the Champlain Towers South collapse, Surfisde renames a road and holds a memorial.

12 PM REPORT

Families, elected officials and first responders all gathered together Friday to commemorate one year since the devastating condo collapse in Surfside that claimed the lives of 98 people.

SURFSIDE’S PUBLIC MEMORIAL

FIRST LADY’S LANDING

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About the Author:

Andrew Perez is a South Florida native who joined the Local 10 News team in May 2014.