SURFSIDE, FLA. (WSVN) - A growing floral memorial in Surfside stands as a show of support for the victims of the condominium collapse, as South Floridians reach out to help those displaced and impacted by the tragedy.
7News cameras captured flowers wrapped around a fence blocks away from where part of the South Tower of the Champlain Towers condominiums came down early Thursday morning. A T-shirt that reads “Team Surfside” also hangs next to some of the flowers.
Sharon Finlinson, who began the makeshift memorial, said there’s a personal reason behind the display.
“We have a family that we know is missing right now, and we just really wanted to — I don’t know,” she said as she held back tears. “It just felt like a good way to make some beauty in something so sad and tragic.”
Finlinson said the flowers and notes are symbols of support for her missing friends.
“It’s a mom, dad and two little girls that are missing right now, and I’m hoping they’re either on vacation somewhere, that they just don’t know that this is happening or that they can be found,” she said.
Alongside the flowers, some people have added lanyards with the names of missing people and their apartment numbers.
Friday evening, 7Skyforce hovered above a prayer circle that was formed in the sand near the collapse site.
Participant Isabella Cisternino lit a candle for her missing friend and her family.
“I’m just trying to call my friend’s and her family’s guardian angels, for them to maybe do something about what’s going and to make sure that she’s in a safe place,” she said.
Just a block from the rubble, another memorial went up. Cameras showed bouquets from six different Surfside florists sitting below pictures of those who remain unaccounted for.
The memorials and prayer circle are not the only ways South Florida is coming together to show solidarity for the victims.
Inside Global Empowerment Mission’s warehouse in Doral, volunteers assembled care packages for families who lost everything in the collapse.
The care packages are filled with everyday necessities.
“Which is mostly hygiene [products], COVID preventions, all different kinds of blankets, phone chargers and essential things that they need,” said Michael Capponi, founder and president of Global Empowerment Mission.
Capponi hopes these items can help the survivors, but he’s aware these items can only go so far, and that’s why they are also handing out cash cards valued at $500 each.
“They got pulled out on a ladder in the middle of the night with nothing, basically, and they’re staying at a hotel right now,” said Capponi. “They can’t cook in their hotel rooms, so you have to give them something so they have vouchers, so they can go buy food, so they can go buy the necessities that they need.”
Near the collapse site, 7-year-old David Cook was captured on cellphone video giving water and snacks to first responders.
“They save our lives. That’s why I wanted to do it,” said the boy.
“What a blessing that God chose me to be David’s mom,” said his mother. “He has such a kind heart, and he’s a very special little human being.”
Back at the floral memorial, longtime Surfside resident Laurie Swedroe lamented the devastating loss of life.
“I’ve been here 22 years. Such a close-knit community, and my kids and I and my immediate family have been here and know people that are missing, and we don’t know what to do,” she said. “We can’t do anything, so the least that we could do is put flowers and a note. We’re just trying to be helpful in anyway we can.”
Swedroe’s note reads in part, “We are here for you today and tomorrow. The symbol of these flowers is for you as well as all the volunteers to know we are here for you all. Love, your Surfside neighbors.”
Finlinson said she hopes these flowers can bring comfort for residents and anyone who is suffering.
“It’s almost like a vigil for us, like some sort of sign of hope and assurance that things might be OK,” she said. “Just action, just trying to do something to make it feel OK.”
Finlinson said her goal is to fill the entire fence with flowers.
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