Emergency physician gathering photos among wreckage of Surfside building collapse
A physician providing medical care to the dozens of emergency responders conducting rescue efforts for the 145 people who remain unaccounted for following last week’s Surfside, Fla., building collapse is also working to collect photos and other personal items found among the debris.
Benjamin Abo, who arrived at the Champlain Towers South building following its partial collapse early in the morning last Thursday, told The Associated Press that he and others quickly began finding photos and personal items among the debris.
“On the first morning that I was here, [we] came out from the garage and looked down and we see a wedding photo,” Abo said. “Obviously from ’70s, maybe early ’80s, in a synagogue.”
The doctor, who serves as the medical director of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue’s Urban Search and Rescue Team, added, “And then all of the sudden we find some more wedding photos, or a bar mitzvah photo, or some vacation photos.”
“And it really started building up,” he continued. “And then when we started getting access to other rooms, bedrooms and living rooms and things like that, you really start to piece together who was here.”
Abo told the AP that he has begun putting many of the photos in boxes near the collapse site, along with other items like diplomas, passports and IDs.
He has also found several toys, some of which have been placed at a public memorial along a chain link fence that was visited by President Biden and first lady Jill Biden Thursday afternoon.
Abo said that he hopes he is able to “reunite” some of the victims with the items found, “to give them a piece because they lost everything.”
“But maybe I’m also able to give families some closure,” he told the AP.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine-Cava (D) said at a press conference Thursday evening that the search for potential survivors had resumed following a pause amid concerns about whether the remaining portions of the building would also collapse.
At least 18 people have been confirmed dead in the disaster, with Biden saying at a press conference during his visit to Surfside Thursday that the families of those still unaccounted for want to recover the bodies of their loved ones “at a minimum.”
“We’re here for you as one nation, as one nation, and that’s the message we communicated,” he said.
Biden has also supported a probe into the collapse, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology announced Wednesday that it is launching a “full technical investigation” that could take years.