Tragedy in Surfside

In the early hours of June 24th, 2021, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue responded to reports of a building collapse at Champlain Tower South, a 12-story, 136-unit apartment complex located in the heart of the Town of Surfside. Within minutes, first responders discovered that the northeast corridor of the building had sustained a partial collapse, and estimated that 81 apartment units were impacted. Without hesitation, our firefighters ran headlong into the fray - rescuing 37 occupants from the structure and rubble while initiating what would become the largest non-hurricane Search and Rescue mission in Florida’s history.
Just as our first responders began working the site of the collapse, the Miami-Dade County Communications and Customer Experience Department set up a hotline and online information center for afflicted families as the sun rose, and would go on to staff the County’s 24 hour Reunification line, answering 2,598 calls and opening 1,079 missing person reports.

Over the following days, our very own Florida Task Force 1, along with Urban Search and Rescue Teams from FEMA, the State of Florida, and other rescue teams from around the world, would descend upon the site to assist in the efforts, working 12 hour shifts through blistering heat, pouring rain, and dangerous fires to continue their mission.
Image of Surfside Memorial
Image of Miami-Dade Police Officers
Over the course of the next month, as our first responders continued to pull victims of this tragedy from the rubble, the incredibly painful, difficult job of identifying those lost fell on the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner's Office, who demonstrated professionalism, grace, and compassion in equal measure until every victim was identified and every next of kin notified. In total, 98 victims would ultimately be pulled from the rubble - with each one signifying an unspeakable loss for all of those who loved them.

The story of Surfside is a complicated one. First and foremost, it is a story of unimaginable loss, grief, and pain for so many. However, through that same loss, grief, and pain - another story, one of Miami-Dade County and the character of its people, came into sharp focus. It was a story written by the everyday men and women of our community who summoned the courage and resolve to face incredible challenges and to do things that have never been done before. Like the first responders who arrived at the scene and ran directly into the collapsed building to usher survivors to safety, and who put their own lives on the line in doing so. Or the small businesses that donated food, water, and supplies in support of the mission despite the incredibly difficult times they were already faced with as a result of the pandemic. Most importantly, the story of Surfside was written by those who lost their loved ones or their homes, who displayed unimaginable grace and strength throughout - offering support to one another, allowing us to mourn their loss with them daily, and providing a source of strength to our entire community.

The tragedy in Surfside taught us so much about who we are as a community. More than anything, it showed us the common and unyielding good nature of our people.