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Surfside mayor shares heartbreaking story of missing mother's daughter

'She was just lost. She didn't know what to do,' Mayor Charles Burkett says
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett speaks at a news conference on June 28, 2021.jpg
A wall shows photos of dozens of missing people from the Champlain Towers condo collapse on June 28, 2021.jpg
A wall shows photos of dozens of missing people from the Champlain Towers condo collapse on June 28, 2021 (1).jpg
A wall shows photos of dozens of missing people from the Champlain Towers condo collapse on June 28, 2021 (2).jpg
Posted at 1:34 PM, Jun 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-28 18:31:33-04

SURFSIDE, Fla. — The mayor of Surfside on Monday shared a truly heartbreaking account of a little girl who's desperately hoping her mother will be found after a devastating condominium collapse last week.

Speaking at a news conference, Mayor Charles Burkett said he was touring the Champlain Towers site on Sunday night and came across a little girl who was 11 or 12 years old.

"One of her parents was in that building at the time of the collapse," Burkett said.

Burkett said the girl was sitting in a chair by herself, looking at her phone, as dozens of dedicated first responders dug through the mounds of dangerous rubble just feet away.

"I knelt down and I asked her, what are you doing? Are you OK?" Burkett said. "She was reading a Jewish prayer to herself, sitting at the site by where one of her parents presumably is. And that really brought it home to me. She wasn't crying. She was just lost. She didn't know what to do, what to say, who to talk to."

The mayor said he's hoping to see the girl again, and wants her to know the strength of this shaken community is behind her.

"I am going to find her, and I am going to tell her that we're all here for her. And we're gonna do the best we can to bring out that parent," Burkett said.

WATCH MAYOR'S COMMENTS:

Surfside mayor talks search-and-rescue efforts

Officials on Monday said 10 people are dead and 151 are missing, four days after the Champlain Towers South condominium building partially collapsed. 135 people are accounted for.

Emergency crews are working around-the-clock in 12-hour shifts using K9 dogs, a variety of cameras, drones, sonar equipment, and heavy machinery to clear away chunks of debris.

"There's a joint effort, there's a camaraderie, and everybody has the same goal. And that's to pull people out of there," Burkett said.

Miami-​Dade Assistant Fire Chief Raide Jadallah said, at this point, there are no plans to suspend the search-and-rescue operations.

"In the end, there are numerous variables and facts. It's not based on opinions, it's not based on time," Jadallah said. "We have to consider all options."

A large wall on Harding Avenue, just south of 88th Street in the shadow of the Champlain Towers, is growing on Monday, showing the names and photos of dozens of missing people.

Family members, friends, even complete strangers are stopping by to pay their respects, light candles, and leave small mementos behind. One person even made a poster that reads "Thank You For Looking For My Grandmother."

A wall shows photos of dozens of missing people from the Champlain Towers condo collapse on June 28, 2021.jpg
A wall shows photos of dozens of missing people from the Champlain Towers condo collapse on June 28, 2021.
A wall shows photos of dozens of missing people from the Champlain Towers condo collapse on June 28, 2021 (1).jpg
A wall shows photos of dozens of missing people from the Champlain Towers condo collapse on June 28, 2021.
A wall shows photos of dozens of missing people from the Champlain Towers condo collapse on June 28, 2021 (2).jpg
A wall shows photos of dozens of missing people from the Champlain Towers condo collapse on June 28, 2021.

Families and loved ones faced the unimaginable Monday on board busses, being escorted by police after leaving the collapse site of the Champlain Towers South condo.

And about a block away, a memorial continues to grow with pictures of those missing.

"God takes our best angels early on, so we have faith they're all with God, they're all watching over us," said Christina Fuentes.

Fuentes and her husband stopped by the memorial for the first time Monday. Their friends, who are more like family, are among the missing.

"They were quite the adventurous family. They traveled a lot, they loved each other a lot," Fuentes said.

Hope is still alive. The pictures and this memorial providing a sense of peace, a bit of light, on another dark day.

"Their spirits and their souls will always remain among us always for all of them for everybody here," Fuentes said.

A Family Information and Reunification Center continues to operate at the Surfside Recreation Center, located at 9301 Collins Avenue, for people who are unable to locate their relatives who live in the building.

At the Family Assistance Center, the city is working with FEMA, identifying all the families impacted, offering relocation assistance and mental health services to cope with the trauma.

You can open a Missing Person Report by clicking here or calling 833-930-3701.

If you live at the Champlain Towers property or you know a person who lives there who has been found safe, click here.

VIDEO OF MEMORIAL:

Wall of missing people grows on Monday

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