Surfside to mark collapse anniversary with private vigil, public event with Jill Biden

Al Diaz/adiaz@miamiherald.com
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The families of the 98 victims who died in last year’s Surfside condo collapse will gather at the Champlain Towers South site after midnight Thursday to honor their loved ones on the one-year anniversary of the June 24, 2021, collapse.

A few hundred people are expected to attend the middle-of-the-night vigil at the collapse site, because each family is permitted to invite as many guests as they want. The event will be closed to the media and to the public.

The family members will light a commemorative torch and officially observe the anniversary at 1:22 a.m. — the moment the building collapsed last summer. The torch will remain lit for about three weeks to represent the time it took until the last victim, Estelle Hedaya, was recovered from the rubble July 20, said Mayor Shlomo Danzinger.

SEE MORE: New photos of the site of Champlain Towers South as it is one year after the collapse

There will be a public memorial event on the site at 10 a.m. Friday. First lady Jill Biden is traveling to Surfside to speak at the event. She and President Joe Biden visited Surfside last summer to meet with families and first responders.

The Miami Herald will broadcast the event live online at miamiherald.com. The town of Surfside will also broadcast it online and through its public-access cable TV channel.

Danzinger and other government officials are also scheduled to speak. Danzinger said confirmed speakers include U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, state Sen. Jason Pizzo, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who is also the state fire marshal, and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.

Israeli Consul General Maor Elbaz-Starinsky will also speak, he said.

Commanders from urban search-and-rescue teams — who spent nearly a month searching for survivors and recovering deceased victims from the collapse — are expected to read out the names of the 98 victims, according to a schedule of events distributed to families.

The town of Surfside is organizing the anniversary events with a committee of family members.