The Surfside Condo Tragedy

A first responder, a veteran firefighter, covers the body of his own child, 7-year-old Stella Cattarossi, with his jacket and an American flag as she is wheeled away on a gurney. Her mother is found soon after, also deceased.

A passerby walking his dog gazes horrified as the tower collapses. As the dust settles, he thinks he hears a muffled cry and sees a lone hand protruding from the wreck in front of him. He frantically calls for help. Soon after, Jonah Handler, a 15-year-old high school baseball player, is rescued. His mother, however, is not.

The Shul of Bal Harbour, a nearby synagogue, mourns the death of one of its newest members, Harry Rosenberg, 52, who had moved into the building mere weeks ago. Rosenberg had still been reeling from the tragedies of the previous year, in which his beloved wife had succumbed to brain cancer and both his parents had passed from COVID-19. His daughter and son-in-law had been visiting him, having just traveled from New Jersey. His son-in-law was found deceased; at the time of this writing, his daughter has not yet been recovered.

Dozens more tragic accounts have piled up in the more than two weeks since the shocking collapse of Champlain Towers South on June 24 at approximately 1:20 a.m. EST. On Wednesday, July 7, operations “shifted from rescue to recovery,” meaning that no more survivors are expected to be uncovered.

So far, of the 90 found dead, “71 bodies … have been identified, and their families have been notified. … Some 31 people remain listed as missing.”

The 12-story tower was one of three in a condominium complex located in suburban Surfside in Miami, Florida, an “oceanfront community of about 6,000 people.” Constructed in 1981, the south tower held the greatest number of apartments at 136—approximately 55 of which were demolished in the collapse. 

The Christian Post reported the disaster as “among the deadliest mass-casualty building collapses in U.S. history, excluding fires or acts of terror.”


Too Little, Too Late

Demands for answers are swirling around the mystery of what caused the collapse; and “authorities are launching a grand jury investigation.”

Common sense dictates that foundation matters, not only in buildings but in most everything in life. A sturdy foundation is good; a shaky foundation is bad. In fact, the Bible itself teaches that “a wise man … [builds] his house on the rock” (Matthew 7:24), while “a foolish man … [builds] his house on the sand” (v. 26). So it should come as no surprise that “scientists … have long noted the risk of building on the shifting sands of a barrier island like Miami Beach, especially with rising sea levels.” A recent study actually confirms this.

Even more light was shed upon the release of a structural field survey report, completed on Oct. 8, 2018, by structural engineering firm Morabito Consultants Inc. In it, “major structural damage” in the south tower due to “failed waterproofing” was highlighted. Included was a strong recommendation to take quick action on repairs, which were noted to “be extremely expensive” and “disruptive … to the occupants.” 

While it appears the condominium owners, the Champlain South Condominium Association, requested at least two bids for repairs upon completion of the report, no action was taken beyond that—and the repairs were never made.

So it followed that the damaged areas pinpointed in the report were the first to crumble during the collapse. Still, experts are leaning towards the collapse “as a ‘unique’ event that likely was the result of two or more contributing factors.”

But what makes Champlain Towers all the more tragic is the timing of the entire situation: “At the time of the collapse, county inspectors were reviewing the building’s structure,” the Herald reported Daniel Ciraldo, Miami Design Preservation League’s executive director, as saying.

They were doing so because of county law, which states that when a residential building ages 40 years, it must “undergo a recertification process.” This year was Champlain Towers South’s 40th birthday. The owners had even contracted an engineer and had five bids in the works “due on July 7,” just shy of two weeks from the condo’s collapse.

The repairs were simply too little, too late.


Foundations of Faith

This is what sickens the heart—that there are people who knew of the dangers but who don’t move fast enough to do anything about it, despite all kinds of imminent warning signs.

“Now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed,” Romans 13:11 tells us.

Do we “work the works of [God] … while it is day,” before “the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4)? Are we “redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16)? Have you “[chosen] … this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15, emphasis added)? Have your family, friends, the community around you?

Are you sounding the special alarm God has given to the world in these last days? Learn about “Our Mission” in this life-changing Bible study from our program Sabbath School Study Hour. 

Scripture is calling each individual to wake up and to discover the building that will never be destroyed. Build upon that edifice through our series of powerful presentations Foundations of Faith.

The tragedy in Surfside cut too many lives short, but it is not too late for you. Don’t plant your feet on sinking sand but on the solid Rock Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4).


Kris W. Sky
Kris W. Sky is a writer and editor for Amazing Facts International and other online and print publications.
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