(WSVN) - Saturday marks two years since the collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside. As 7’s Karen Hensel reports, one victim’s family member is turning his pain into purpose.

Pictures captured a cherished moment between Mike Noriega and his grandmother.

Mike Noriega: “My grandmother would cook dinner for us and spend time with us, and she was in so many ways like my second mom.”

Ninety–two-year-old Hilda Noriega lived on the sixth floor.

Within minutes of the tower collapsing at 1:22 a.m. on June 24, 2021, Mike got a phone call.

Mike Noriega: “My mom said to me, ‘Mike, your father just got a phone call from someone. In your grandmother’s building, she was irate, she was fanatical.'”

Mike and his dad Carlos, who is the North Bay Village Police chief, raced to Surfside.

Mike didn’t know it then, but that night would begin a two-year-long journey of hope, heartbreak and eventually healing.

Mike Noriega: “When you go through a broken heart, what ultimately determines whether or not you’re gonna become bitter or better is the meaning that you give your pain.”

Mike found his meaning in a calling to write a book, “Uncollapsable Soul.”

Through his words, he hopes to honor his grandmother’s legacy of faith, family and friendship.

And what his family and so many others lost.

Mike Noriega: “I felt sharing my journey of healing to other people that are going through crushing seasons of life, through my grandmother’s story and through many other stories of people that passed away and survived from the collapse, is something that could bring purpose to the pain.”

In the days after the collapse, the family found signs of hope in the debris that came from Hilda’s condo unit.

A certificate reading “God bless this house, The Noriega family,” pictures and this birthday card.

Mike Noriega [on June 26, 2021]: “It’s just a beautiful message in the mess of everything.”

Mike Noriega: “Unbeknownst to me at the time that six days later she was going to be the 12th person found. And when the homicide detectives, when they broke the news to us, they handed us a brown paper bag, and they addressed my father and said, ‘We want you to know that we found this on your mother when we recovered her body.'”

Inside the bag were six rosaries.

Mike Noriega: “In a scenario where we didn’t get to keep anything of hers, any of her belongings, the only three things we got to keep were symbolic in the legacy of her life.”

While the Noriega family cherishes the few mementos they have, it was his grandmother’s faith that fueled Mike to write the book.

Mike Noriega: “There was a collapse that I went through in my personal life, long before the Surfside collapse, and it’s through my own crushing seasons of life that, at the time that I called a curse that I later was able to see as a blessing, because I see now that they were actually preparation for what I was going to face in Surfside “

“Uncollapsable Soul” shares more than the stories of those who lived and died that June night.

His hope is that those who struggled with their own pain and can find strength through his words.

Mike Noriega: “This is so much bigger than my grandmother’s story and my family’s pain. And so, the book is very raw, it’s very authentic, because not only does it share the stories very vividly, but at the same time, I share the exact steps to healing that I went through, which is how I found healing.”

Mike says he knows his grandmother would be proud of his book. The question he looks to answer is, how do you endure a broken heart without crushing your spirit?

Mike is hosting a memorial on the beach in Surfside on Saturday night from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Click the link for more details about “Uncollapsable Soul”
“Light into the Night” Memorial
Saturday, June 24, from 7:00-8:30 p.m. 
8777 Collins Avenue
Surfside, Florida

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