“My sister and son-in-law were – they are – in this building right now,” Martin Langsfeld said at a makeshift memorial late Wednesday night, a few hundred yards from the rubble, as the reality of lost hope sank.
Langsfeld, 23, said he still could not put his feelings into words. He seemed confused that he would be there, standing in front of a pile of rubble, talking about his newlywed sister, Nicole, buried down. How could this be?
“I want to say thank you very much,” Langsfeld said, looking into the eyes of rescue and rescue team members standing a few feet away, whom he praised for putting their “blood, heart and soul” into trying to find their sister alive. of.
“We did not get the result we wanted,” he continued. “But we became a family.”
For Langesfeld and so many other members of the victims’ family, Wednesday was a tough day trying to come to terms with the unthinkable fate of their loved one. No wonder survivors were pulled from the rubble of Champlain Towers South, which collapsed on June 24, burying dozens of people.
So far, authorities say they have recovered 54 bodies. Another 86 people remain missing and fear they have died. There is no immediate explanation for the building’s collapse, although research focuses on a 2018 engineering report that warned of structural deficiencies.
The building collapsed so hard that rescuers could not find “gaps” or pockets where people could survive for days – as has happened in some other cases around the world where construction collapsed due to earthquakes or hurricanes.
Fire officials said Wednesday that a section on the north side of the demolished building saw four floors – typically representing at least 40 feet of vertical space – of pancakes in just three feet, crushing them all in between.
The rescue dog did not hear a warning that a survivor was under the huge pile of concrete and rod. More than once, fire officials said Wednesday that their sensitive equipment showed no signs of life.
It fell to Ray Jadallah, assistant chief of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, to explain to families during Wednesday night’s meeting that there was no longer any realistic hope of locating survivors.
As Jadallah spoke to families, he stressed that more attention should be paid to those working on the site to gently find all human remains. He said his team’s mission was to unite everyone with their family members under the rubble so they could find some peace and closure.
“I assured them that just because we went in search and recovery, does not necessarily mean that trucks are leaving, that everyone is leaving and everyone is forgetting families,” he said.
All search and rescue operators working on the site left the wreckage on Wednesday night and gathered for a moment of silence. Those gathered seemed exhausted. A few tears or betrayed any emotion. They looked resolutely at the pile of concrete and the twisted bar in front of them, they seemed ready to return to work.
Members of search and rescue teams gathered for a moment of prayer and silence next to the collapsing tower. (AP Photo)
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said the company’s transition to a recovery was a “blow” to everyone involved.
However, in his grief, he could only betray the slightest flicker of hope.
“No one knows for sure, with absolute certainty, that there is still no one waiting to get out of this pile,” he said, looking in the direction of the ruins. “I think everyone believes that too.”