President BidenJoe BidenTexas announces election audit in four counties after Trump demand Pennsylvania AG sues to block GOP subpoenas in election probe House passes sweeping defense policy bill MORE and first lady Jill BidenJill BidenFirst Lady visits schools to discuss COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Schumer: Dem unity will happen eventually; Newsom prevails The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - Biden travels west as Washington troubles mount MORE made an unscheduled stop Thursday afternoon at a photo memorial honoring the victims and individuals who remain unaccounted for in the collapse of a condo building in Surfside, Fla.
The Bidens stood in front of the photo wall, which was set up against a chain link fence decorated with flowers and marked by a sign reading “Surfside Wall of Hope and Memorial.” The first lady held a bouquet of white flowers and after a few minutes laid the bouquet between candles at the memorial.
The Bidens at Surfside pic.twitter.com/Rs16gK4PFN— Steve Holland (@steveholland1) July 1, 2021
The photo wall is located two blocks from Champlain Towers South, a 12-story building that partially collapsed one week ago. Search and rescue operations were paused on Thursday over risks of further collapse of the building.
Biden spent the day in Surfside, receiving a briefing from state and local officials, thanking first responders, and visiting privately with the families impacted by the tragedy. At least 18 people are known to have perished in the building collapse and 145 remain unaccounted for.
Biden told officials during the briefing that the federal government intends to pick up the full cost incurred by the county and state for the response efforts for the first 30 days.
In emotional remarks just before he visited the photo memorial, Biden said that the families are “realistic” about the odds of their loved ones’ survival but underscored the need for officials to continue recovery efforts.
"It's bad enough to lose somebody, but the hard part, the really hard part, is to not know if they are surviving or not,” Biden said, recalling his own experience of loss when his first wife and daughter were killed in a car accident in 1972.