Commentary: The Surfside condo collapse is sad and filled with suffering

Commentary: The Surfside condo collapse is sad and filled with suffering
July 14
11:02 2021

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

There are times in life when suffering comes suddenly. There are no knocks on the door or telephones ringing to warn you.

We wake up sometimes with our day already planned. If you are retired, your plans are flexible and fluid.

The residents of Champlain Towers South thought it would be a normal day on June 24. Why would they think otherwise? There were no warning signs.

Thursday, June 24, 2021, is a day that changed their lives and the lives of their families forever. A part of Champlain Towers South suddenly collapsed, leaving behind death and destruction. According to reports, the death toll is at 90 with 31 people unaccounted for at this time.

By all measures, this catastrophe has shaken the state of Florida in particular, and America as a whole. Pictures shown on television provided a gruesome and grim scene as family belongings were trapped between bricks and mortar.

The scene could be compared to the destruction we saw during 9\11.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava said, “The magnitude of this tragedy is growing each and every day, It’s an aching hole in the center of this close-knit family.”

The pain experienced by the loved ones of the deceased will be forever etched in their hearts and minds. A victim as young as five years old has been found. This was someone’s child and grandchild.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has now more than 200 pieces of evidence as they begin a review of what caused the building to come down in shambles. Prior to the collapse, there were citizen complaints about the problems at the condo. These claims arguably went unanswered and unresolved.

Now after the collapse, reports have surfaced showing structural damage. At the inquiry desk is why officials put them aside and by their non-actions deemed them not important.

Building shortcomings often start out as a splinter in your finger and end up being a broken bone in your body. This analogy is what occurred in Surfside.

Now, city officials are going to condos along Miami Beach and making inspections. With these inspections, developers are being given deadlines to make improvements.

Volusia County chair Jeff Brower said, “We inspect bridges every two years and yet a high-rise can go up right on the coast and it’s inspected at the time it is built and never again. It’s kind of a wake-up call, and some of the pictures I have seen of our own structures are scary.”

Scary is what happens when buildings are decaying, yet the belief is that they will last forever. The heartbreak in this is that now leaders are paying attention.

Do edifices like Champlain Towers South come down because of poor materials, cutting corners and inferior workmanship? I think it is a combination of factors.

The evidence gathered will surely tell us what happened in Surfside. Hopefully, the findings will be heeded and better building construction will happen, and inspections will become more frequent.

Already in North Miami Beach, 50-year-old Crestview Towers has told its residents that repairs will be forthcoming and they will have to leave. Of course, these repairs are happening before another tragedy occurs. This is the type of futuristic foresight that will be needed.

Buildings are fragile, but our lives are infinitely more fragile. Buildings can be replaced over time, but we only have one life and it is precious.

Prayers go up for the victims at Champlain Towers South. Families, hold on to His unchanging hand. He will not let go of your hands.

James B. Ewers Jr., Ed.D., is a former tennis champion at Atkins High School in Winston-Salem and played college tennis at Johnson C. Smith University, where he was all-conference for four years. He is a retired college administrator. He can be reached at

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