Jun 26, 2022
First lady Dr. Jill Biden, Gov. Ron DeSantis speak at Surfside memorial 6/24/22 Transcript
First lady Dr. Jill Biden, Gov. Ron DeSantis speak at Surfside memorial on 6/24/22. Read the transcript here.
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First Lady Dr. Jill Biden: (00:01)
Thank you, Mayor Danzinger, Governor and Casey DeSantis, Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz and Wilson, Mayor Cava, and all the leaders who are with us today. Good morning. Hidden in the crowds, scattered throughout workplaces, grocery stores and parks, there is a fellowship of loss. To the uninitiated, we look normal, average, whole. But like a secret handshake, I can spot them by the sadness that rests at the corner of their smile, by the curve of their shoulders, as if they can still feel the small arms of a child wrapping their arms around their neck. And though we are strangers, we know untellable truths about one another; that we will spend the rest of our lives longing for a face that is gone forever, and that when they left our world, they took a light inside of us with them. They are some of who might say that hurt fades over time, but we know that’s not true.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden: (01:28)
There is a collapsed star spinning inside of us and we will forever live in its gravity. The things we carry are heavier now, and one year later, or many years later, our knees sometimes buckle beneath the weight of our grief.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden: (01:53)
Still, we have discovered moments of grace, too. Somehow, against all odds, we rise from the floor. We find a fortitude that we didn’t know we had, and we reach out for help. We realize that we’re not alone. Today, we gather to remember the 98 people loss. On behalf of my husband, President Biden, whose hearts and prayers have never left this community, we stand by you today and always. And as we gather, we express gratitude for this community, the firefighters and first responders who bound up wounds and spent weeks working to recover your loved ones.
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden: (02:52)
First Lady Dr. Jill Biden: (03:21)
The members of Surfside who came together to embrace you, who prayed for you every night, and wrapped their arms around you, the Americans from across our country who donated and found ways to spread kindness, we honor the light you found in each other; a fellowship that you never wanted to be a part of, but draw strength from just the same. If there is something strong enough to help us carry this burden of grief forward, something able to break its gravitational pull, it’s love. The love that makes us tell that story one more time, that makes us laugh with tears in our eyes, and knows a part of them is still inside of us even though they left before we were done needing them. The love of friends and family who refuse to leave us alone, who remind us that joy can be found even in sorrow. The love of a community that lifts us when we’re weak, that carries us. Take it one breath at a time. We are praying for you and we are grieving with you. God bless you.
Speaker 2: (04:55)
Thank you, Madam First Lady. I now have the distinct honor of introducing our Governor of the great state of Florida, Ron DeSantis, who is joining us here today with his dear wife, Casey, who, thank God, is healthy and well and with us here today. We are so grateful.
Speaker 2: (05:25)
At the time of the collapse, I was not the mayor but an active citizen. I watched with awe as I saw our governor spend time with the families almost daily, showing warmth and compassion not as a senior political figure, but as a shoulder to cry on and somebody to talk to. Those images of leadership resonated with me and with the rest of the community. Ladies and gentlemen, the Governor, Ron DeSantis.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (06:13)
Thank you. Thanks so much. Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (06:29)
Well, one year ago, I got a call at about 3:00 AM, and when you’re governor, the 3:00 AM calls are usually not positive calls. The report was that there had been a partial collapse of a condominium complex down in South Florida and I knew that was serious. The images in my mind for how it was described to me is maybe some balconies had fallen, or something that was potentially manageable. As I made my way down here, I started to see images on TV and it looked more serious than that, but it didn’t hit me the full gravity. I don’t think you could appreciate until you were on this ground, looking at it. It was a massive collapse.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (07:12)
These guys, the first responders, were there from the wee hours of the morning. They saved people from the adjacent tower and they were there working on that pile, doing whatever they could to try to save anybody who may have been a survivor. And I remember standing out a day or two later, you’d see smoke and it was a tough, tough situation.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (07:36)
And so, we had the people not only from Miami-Dade. We had teams end up coming from all over the state of Florida, and even other states come to help. And so, as Governor, I just want to say thank you for stepping up and being there. It was not an easy job as a first responder. It was very emotional. I think it took a toll on a lot of people. But I think you showed why in the state of Florida, we respect what you do so much. So, from our state, just thank you for being there when people needed you.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (08:17)
And that was one example, but you saw a entire community mobilize in support of, obviously, families who were wondering what happened with their loved ones, other families who were displaced. And you had individuals step up. You had organizations, all the religious groups, stepped up in here. And it got to the point where there was a surplus of people that were wanting to donate items. And so, I think that speaks a lot about this community in Surfside, also the greater community in South Florida, but we had people really from all across the state. And so, in a very difficult time, you saw a lot of great parts of humanity coming forward to help those in need. And so, I was very humbled to be able to see that in the state I’m fortunate to represent.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (09:07)
And of course, we did have folks who were able to evacuate the other tower. They’re all of a sudden left without their possessions. They’re left without a roof over their head, and that was a very difficult and traumatic time. I know we had a lot of people on the ground helping them. I know a lot of money was raised helping them, but that was very, very difficult.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (09:30)
We did what we could, of course, from our office. The local folks did a lot. And then, of course, all our private organizations.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (09:38)
But of course, the devastating aspect of this is losing 98 great individuals. If you look at the folks who were in Champlain Towers South who passed away that day, they really represented a cross section of the state of Florida. You had young professionals that were just starting their lives. You had families with kids. You had grandparents who were retired. Some had been longtime residents, others had been relatively new to the area. They had connections, of course, not just in other parts of our state and country, but they had connections from all over the world and they represented many different face.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (10:21)
And I can tell you, when we were waiting those initial days with the hope that some would be rescued, it provided an opportunity for people to learn about some of these individuals. And I can tell you this: people who’ve never been to Surfside, people who’ve never even been to the state of Florida, were inspired about the stories and the lives that those 98 people led. They made an impact on their friends, on their family, on their communities and beyond. And so, we really thought it was important at the tate of Florida to make sure that their memories live on. And so, I was happy in our budget to ask the legislature to dedicate an initial $1 million towards a memorial that can be constructed on this site, and I’m happy to report that was included in the budget that I signed in to law.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (11:23)
And we also… So that people realize… Because before this happened, you go up and down these streets, you see these condo buildings, you don’t really think anything of it. But, you know, each little unit really represented a remarkable life and a remarkable story. We want to make sure that people understand that. And so, we are going to be able to now designate this portion of Collins Avenue 98 Points of Light Road.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: (11:55)
So, every time people drive by, they’re going to be reminded that there were great people that lived in that tower and that this is a tragedy that wounded this community in our state, but we are not going to forget what they meant to this community and our state. And this sign is a small token to do that. So, I want to thank you all for coming to remember the 98. God bless their memory, and God bless Surfside and the state of Florida.