National News

Miami Archbishop Wenski Recalls His Visit to Condo Collapse Site

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami visited the site of the collapsed Champlain Towers South on July 2. The Archdiocese of Miami has clergy and staffers from Catholic Charities on the ground assisting victims’ families and survivors. (Photo: CNS/Rocio Granados, The Florida Catholic)

WINDSOR TERRACE — Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami paid a visit to the collapsed Surfside, Florida condo tower site, where he met with first responders and got a close-up view of the devastation.

“From that vantage point, I was able to see the rubble of the building, and part of the building that collapsed and also the 12-story building, part of it, was still remaining with the walls sheared off, looking very precarious,” the archbishop told Currents News.

Archbishop Wenski was at the site on July 2 — two days before the remaining 12-story structure was demolished by order of Florida authorities.

The demolition was authorized out of concern for the safety of first responders who were searching through the neighboring rubble.

“They took the building down on Sunday night in order to facilitate the rescue because the rescue workers could not go to a certain part of the rubble because the rubble is basically holding up the building,” the archbishop said. “So they feared that if they went too close, looking for survivors or bodies, the ground was unstable, and then it could have caused the collapse of the building and endanger the life of the rescuers.” 

On July 7, the search was changed from a rescue to recovery after authorities decided it is doubtful that any of the victims will be found alive at this point. The building collapse took place back on June 24.

“There are people holding out hope that maybe one or two might be found alive,” Archbishop Wenski said. “But that hope grows dimmer every day.”

The recovery workers are sympathetic to the plight of victims’ families, he said. The workers “understand that the families are anxious to be able to get their loved ones’ remains and to have a proper funeral for them,” he said.

Archbishop Wenski added that people who survived the collapse “are going to have quite a long road ahead of them to get through their grief and as they get through their grief to resolve their lives with some hope, hopefully.”

He said the Archdiocese of Miami was at the collapse site to provide assistance where needed.

“We’ve had people from Catholic Charities on-site, Catholic Health Services on-site, and they are available to the families and survivors, and to those that were rescued from the building earlier, to help them with food vouchers if they need them or assistance for rent,” Archbishop Wenski said.

In addition, two priests from St. Joseph’s Church — located within walking distance of the condo buildings — are at the site every day.

During his visit, Archbishop Wenski also met with recovery workers.

“I was able to talk to many of the first responders, and a lot of them had just arrived from other states,” he said. “There was a group from Philadelphia that was there that I had a chance to talk to.”

“We cannot forget the first responders,” he said, adding that they also need prayers and assistance.