Florida Task Force 1 & 2 demobilizing after month-long deployment at Surfside condo collapse site

Author: Ted Scouten / CBS Miami
Crews work in the rubble of the demolished section of the Champlain Towers South building, as removal and recovery work continues at the site of the partially collapsed condo building, on Monday, July 12, 2021, in Surfside. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

A hero’s welcome for the 80 search and rescue team members from South Florida as they made their way back to their loved ones.

Louis Cal spent 29 days in Surfside with the Florida Task Force 1, away from his children and wife.

“It’s the best feeling in the world to come back home and to have the support that was taking care of everything while you were gone,” Cal said.

Cal said while the work at the site was draining physically and mentally, it meant the world to him to serve others.

A fireboat shoots its hoses as members of Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 2 head home after nearly a month on-site of the Surfside condo collapse (Credit: CBS4)

“It was a very hard effort. We tried our best. We wouldn’t stop it was 24 hours, 7 days a week of searching. A lot of sacrifice but it was totally worth it to bring closure to the families and to the best we could for the people of Surfside,” he said.

Before leaving Surfside, search and rescue teams made the somber 3 block walk to the site one last time.

It is now nearly empty after these crews and others went through it piece by piece searching for the men, women and children who died in the collapse.

“Providing closure to families was the ultimate test of everyone here. We did our best to do that, to make sure that everybody knew that we were in it 1000% to make sure they had the closure they needed,” said Task Force 2 leader Asst. Miami Fire Chief Scott Dean.

Members of Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 2 head home after nearly a month on site of the Surfside condo collapse (CBS4)

Searchers also made their way to the Memorial Wall. For many, it was emotional and difficult seeing the faces of those who did not survive.

“It’s tough,” said Capt. Erik Sanchez, Program Manager for Task Force 1.

“I just went to the site, I couldn’t even go to the memorial. When I put names with faces, it’s just not me. It’s definitely hard,” he said.

Crews left the site in a caravan, receiving a water salute on the way.

Their biggest reward for their hard work was waiting for them just a few miles away.

“We’re just happy to be back with family. Just missed them so much, happy to be together,” said one team member.

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