July 30, 2021
A summer that began with plans of getting back to normal has been disrupted by heartbreaking challenges that have reaffirmed our strong and united community cannot just withstand, but will thrive, in the most difficult times.
During a month punctuated by the horrific assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise and the violent repression of the Cuban people demanding basic human rights and freedom, the unprecedented and unimaginable collapse of Champlain Towers South Condominium caused us all to recognize the unpredictable complicated world we live in.
Almost 100 people lost their lives as a result of the collapse, devastating our entire community, and thousands of other condominium dwellers question how safe they are in their own homes. Over 1,000 first responders from South Florida, across the United States, Israel and Mexico, worked around the clock to rescue or recover everyone. They did everything humanly possible despite dealing with fire, smoke, rain and the threat of a hurricane/tropical storm. The bravery and heroism of these men and women were inspiring, but so too was our community’s response.
Individual volunteers, non-profits, religious groups, government agencies and businesses rushed out to feed, clothe and otherwise support those who lost friends, family, and/or their homes. Seven of our SAO Victim Specialists tirelessly assisted in the efforts at the site, 24/7 for several weeks, with some spending the night at the Victim Center in Surfside, including one of my Chief Assistant State Attorneys. Several of my other lawyers and Senior Trial Counsel also provided invaluable legal support, where appropriate, to the Miami-Dade Mayor and Police Department.
As your State Attorney, I wanted to not only provide the victims and survivors with the resources they needed to cope with their loss, but I also wanted to ensure that everything possible was being done to learn how and why the collapse occurred so we could prevent a future similar tragedy. To that end, I spoke with President Biden, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, Senators Rubio and Scott and Governor DeSantis, and asked them to have the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) take the lead in the scientific portion of this investigation. NIST is the Federal agency responsible for ensuring the quality and safety of our nation’s buildings and supporting the development of building codes and standards.
I am pleased to say that NIST is actively working to answer our collective questions. Their mission is to focus on the facts, not fault. In addition, I asked the Grand Jury to look into this horrifying event with an eye toward enhancing general building safety. The Grand Jury agreed to do so and has already begun its difficult work.
It is in these truly dreadful moments filled with excruciating pain and disbelief that we see the true strength, beauty, humility, and humanity that makes our community so extraordinary. As we have done in the past, we seamlessly came together to be there for one another.
I am proud to be a part of this collective family of diverse and talented individuals who work together towards a safer, healthier, and just community for all.
Stay healthy, safe and strong.
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle
This press release was produced by Miami-Dade State Attorney. The views expressed here are the author’s own.