Surfside: Giving thanks for a life well-lived

Michael Noriega prepares for first Thanksgiving without grandmother
Posted at 7:11 PM, Nov 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-24 19:11:27-05

Michael Noriega is giving thanks on the eve of Thanksgiving for a life well-lived. He does it with raw emotion still gripping his heart.

"The pain comes in waves. Every day is a little bit different," Noriega said.

He's talking about his grandmother, Hilda Noriega.

She was 92 years old and a resident at the Champlain Towers South condominium in Surfside.

Hilda was one of 98 people killed when the condo collapsed June 24th.

Now, five months later, Noriega wants to make sure the way she lived is remembered.

"My grandmother," he told WPTV, "as I have said many times lived for faith, family, friends, in a way that honored God and honored others."

He gives thanks for the grandmother who had youthful energy always on display.

"My grandmother was at everything," Noriega recalled. "Ninety-two years old (and) on every vacation with us. We had to keep up with her."

He smiled over shared family stories, like the one about Hilda's famous sweet tooth.

"One time," Noriega laughed, "she told us, 'My doctor told me I can't have chocolate anymore.' And an hour later, we found her in the kitchen, digging for chocolate."

There will be an empty place at the Thanksgiving table for the Noriega family, but through the tears and grief, there will be the celebration, too, of enduring love and faith.

"There (are) some days where I actually have joy, because I believe my grandma went to sleep that night and woke up in heaven," Noriega said.