Support Surfside – 1 Year Anniversary

It has been 365 days since a 13-story residential building collapsed in our community with families sleeping in their beds.  

Today and every day we grieve alongside the families who lost everything and especially those who lost loved ones.  

Buildings aren’t supposed to collapse.

Together, we learned lessons a community hopes NEVER to learn.  

  • Which countries have the best excavation teams. 
  • How to verify someone’s identity when they’ve lost everything. 
  • What level of disaster is required for FEMA support to be activated.  
  • How to share updates with grieving families.  
  • How many cash loaded gift cards you can purchase at Publix before your credit card is cut off.  
  • Which restaurants, hotels, and businesses will absorb a shocking loss to help the community.   
  • What it costs for a team of lawyers to fight for the best interest of a building full of survivors.  
  • How many neighbors will open their homes for absolute strangers. 
  • How many hours a person can stay awake when waiting for news of their loved ones.  
  • How to cry with your team.  

We saw our County Mayor display the strength and heart of a true warrior, standing in the front of a rescue and recovery effort no leader should ever have to face.  

We saw tens of thousands of people reach into their pockets in a whirlwind of support. Every dollar mattered. 

We saw the bravery of not only our local rescue workers, but those from around the globe who risked their lives to help our community. 

We were comforted and guided by Israel’s rescue teams who not only shared their knowledge and skill- but who helped build trust in our local leaders so that we could carry on without them once they went home.  

We saw the generosity of the churches and synagogues in Bal Harbor and Surfside who immediately sprang into action sorting supplies, providing housing, meals, funeral services, grief counseling, and comfort at a volume that cannot be described. 

We saw the wraparound services of our community step forward, from trauma counselors to caseworkers. JCS, Wellspring Counseling, Global Empowerment Mission and so many others. 

We saw corporations bend over backwards offering flights for families, free rent, food, and an outpouring of donations, including an immediate and powerful $1 million contribution from the Lennar Foundation.  

We saw our sports teams use their platforms powerfully to generate support and keep the drumbeat of generosity flowing. Our Miami HEAT players and Charitable Fund Director Steve Stowe were on the ground every day helping, serving, and grieving with our community. 

We saw leaders from every sector step forward to share the burden of distributing the resources raised transparently, ethically, quickly, and compassionately, with expertise and leadership from the National Compassion Fund. Dr. Eduardo Padron, Marshall Ames, Sheldon Anderson, James Haj, Thomas Hoyer, Rabbi Julie Jacobs, Tova Kreps, David Lawrence Jr., Carlos Migoya, Leslie Miller Saiontz, Felipe Pinzon, Hank Raattama, Jacob Salomon, Rev. Juan Sosa, and Steve Stowe, I hope we never have to gather under those circumstances again.  

And on a personal note, I saw the brave, unified leadership of our peers who stood together with no ego, with no expectation of credit or visibility in a moment of tremendous pain. Having just started at The Miami Foundation, these were new friendships that we formed by just jumping in together at the speed of trust. Mary from Coral Gables Community Foundation, Melissa from Key Biscayne Community Foundation, it was an HONOR to start and end every day with you for the months of Support Surfside. I know we will lean on these muscles again for our community… hopefully it won’t be for a long, long time.  

The truth is, it’s hard for me to talk about what happened in Surfside without crying. All of us who stepped forward last year absorbed trauma from the experience. But because it was not OUR tragedy… because there were people who lost lives, who lost homes, who lost limbs, who lost everything… those of us who led the community through it didn’t have the time or audacity to fully grieve ourselves.  

As we hit the one-year mark, it is time to exhale. To recite the names of those who were lost. To thank God for the strength of our homes and the generosity of our neighbors. To remember what we experienced together, how we stood together, and to feel the feelings we’ve bottled up for later.  

Mr. Fred Rogers said it best. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” 365 days ago, EVERYONE helped. We are not the same people we were a year ago. And today, I hope all of us can take a moment of pause to remember, and to continue to heal.  

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