Surfside condo collapse: families of victims demand memorial site

Ronit Felszer, who lost her son, Ilan Naibryf, 21, in the June disaster, moved his family of five to America in 2002 “because I believed in what American stood for,” she said. said at a press conference Thursday.

“The America I dreamed of was not built on dead people or mass graves,” Felszer said.

The collapse of the Champlain South Towers on June 24 shortly before 1:30 a.m. left 98 people dead.

Surfside – a town of about 6,000 people just north of Miami Beach – is home to a large population of Orthodox Jews. After the collapse, when families got together, it was common to hear Hebrew, Spanish, English and Portuguese.

The diverse community came together, trying to seize the strength in the faith. Synagogues and churches open for emergency prayer services. Vigils were held for the missing, and many prayed, sobbed and hugged the ruins of the tower visible in the background.

“It is evident that it has become more than a collapsed construction site. It is a sacred site,” Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett said in the weeks following the collapse.

But in a hearing Thursday, a court-appointed receiver, attorney Michael Goldberg, said the sale of the Champlain Towers South site for $ 120 million to an anonymous buyer will be formalized in a contract next week, according to the governor’s office. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw said the sale was not yet final as it could take several months to complete due diligence on zoning and environmental issues. And until the sale is finalized, she said, other potential buyers can submit bids.

In addition, the DeSantis office said on Friday that “any decision regarding the land where the Champlain South Towers once stood must be made by the owners.”

“This is of course a sensitive subject, and the governor has not taken a position on what should be done with the land. It is not public land, so the state does not make the final decision. “said Pushaw.

Monica Iken, who lost her husband, Michael, when the Twin Towers fell on September 11, has pleaded for the site to be a memorial.

“Unfortunately, I have seen it before. It really reminded me of all the nightmares of 9/11 when I lost my beloved Michael Patrick Iken,” she said. She added that she “worked hard to make sure we got world class [9/11] memorial and museum that we have today. ”

Iken, who founded the nonprofit September’s Mission to advocate for those affected by natural and civil disasters, is committed to continuing to help friends and family of victims navigate the process. She pledged to find out who “the stakeholders are” and to contact Governor DeSantis.

Iken stressed that it is important for people to understand that the victims of the Surfside collapse “suffered”.

“They were awake, some of them. We don’t have whole body remains. These people thought there were whole bodies there – there weren’t. Some people just have pieces of their loved ones, ”she said. “It is sacred a sanctified space just like the [9/11] Memorial.”

Martin Langesfeld has lost his sister, Nicole Langesfeld, 26, and his brother-in-law, Luis Sadovnic, 28.

“We ask those in positions of power to please work with us to do the right thing. Treat this disaster as if it were your family, as if it was your city, state or country,” said Langesfeld said.

In this aerial shot from July 31, 2021, the open land where the 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building once stood collapsed in Surfside, Florida.

Vicky Btesh, who lost her husband, Andres Levine, and three cousins, said: “No one deserves to fall asleep and never wake up crushed by their own home.”

“And no one deserves to be disrespected at their final resting place. No one. We are not building on dead people, as you have heard time and time again,” she said. “This memorial should be a permanent reminder of what happened here.”

CNN’s Faith Karimi contributed to this report.

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