Strangers flock to Surfside collapse site to offer prayers, comfort

Reporter: Val Simpson Writer: Jackie Winchester
Published: Updated:
Sign posted on a fence near Champlaign Towers South on June 28, 2021. (Credit: WINK News)

The search for survivors of the deadly Surfside condo collapse intensified Monday as rescuers combed the rubble for the fifth day.

Jimmy Patronis, Florida’s chief financial officer and state fire marshal, said it was the largest deployment of such resources in Florida history that was not due to a hurricane. He said the same number of people were on the ground in Surfside as during Hurricane Michael, a devastating Category 5 hurricane that hit 12 counties in 2018. They’re using technology that includes underground sonar systems to detect victims. They’re also being helped by crane trucks that can remove huge slabs of concrete.

The death toll on Monday climbed to 10, with 151 people still unaccounted for.

In the days following the collapse, strangers have been coming together to pray. One woman said it’s all she can do as she and everyone else await word.

With her hands pointed toward the heavens and head lowered toward the Earth, Ana Pimentel is praying, and her emotions overwhelm her.

“I felt the pain, that’s why I was crying.”

She isn’t a first responder and doesn’t know anyone in the Champlain tower, but she still felt the need to come to a memorial near the scene and ask for God’s help.

“We came together … at church to pray for all the people that live there on this wall.”

She’s offering prayers for the first responders who are tirelessly sifting through the rubble, and prayers for the people of Surfside who fear the worst.

She prays that everyone gets answers and finds peace.

“We are praying for everybody at the hospital, the people in here, the people that may be inside the building we don’t know, under the building we don’t know, but we have the faith.”

Eddy Gomez felt the need to come here, too.

“We’re here to give the family some type of support, spiritual.”

Like the rest of us, he’s struggling to understand what happened, how it happened and why.

Gomez is sure of one thing: “We want, and I know a lot of people like me, want to be here. It’s emotional and it’s lifting up the spirit that you see the support and you see the people. We care. We want to be here. We want to support them. We want to hug them.”

How long they’ll need to be here to hug people, to support them, is anyone’s guess right now.

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