Daughter of Surfside victim remembers her mother year after condo collapse

'I don't know if I'll ever have closure,' Rachel Spiegel says as she fights to preserve her children's memories of their grandmother
Posted at 9:13 AM, Jun 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-24 14:25:54-04

SURFSIDE, Fla. — Judy Spiegel was among the 98 people killed when the Champlain Towers South condominium complex collapsed early in the morning of June 24, 2021.

Spiegel's daughter said she was her best friend, and she wants to make sure her mother's memory lives on, especially for her two daughters.

"I talk about my mom every day, because I don't want my kids to stop remembering her, and I think that's a real fear of mine, having children that are so young."

Judy's husband was in California for business at the time of the collapse. Kevin Spiegel started to call his wife after he saw an email about a building collapse. At first, he thought the incident happened near their condo.

"He started to call my mom and the phone was going to voicemail, which would never happen for my mom," Rachel said. "My mom's phone is always on."

Within a matter of hours, Rachel and her family were rushing to the scene.

Rachel Spiegel recalls her mother's phone going straight to voicemail after Surfside condo collapse
Rachel Spiegel says her mother's phone was going straight to voicemail after the Champlain Towers South condominium building collapsed. It was the first sign that something was wrong.

WPTV spoke to Rachel and her father in the days that followed. Even several days later, they refused to lose hope.

But Rachel and her family would soon be facing their worst nightmare.

"It's really been a hard year watching my dad as a widow, you know, and this year they would have been married 40 years," Rachel said.

Twelve months later and Rachel said they don't have a single piece of her mother's belongings.

"I don't have anything," she said. "So, it's starting from scratch, you know, for family heirlooms, like, things that are meaningful. Like, it's not about the materialist value. It's about having something meaningful that has been passed down from generation to generation."

Judy Spiegel, Kevin Spiegel and their grandchildren pose for photograph before her death in Surfside condo collapse
Photographs like these of Judy Spiegel, her husband Kevin and their grandchildren are cherished possessions for Rachel Spiegel, who wants to preserve her mother's legacy for her own children.

Survivors and families of the victims recently reached a settlement of more than $1 billion. Rachel said she doesn't know what that settlement means for her family, but she's also not focused on it.

"The reason I'm not really focused on it is because it won't turn back time," she said. "I hope that they figure something out to prevent things in the future and help other buildings and other families." Rachel says she misses her mom every day.

"I don't know if I'll ever have closure," she said. "I feel like I'm going to have this heartbreak forever."