Jul 1, 2021
Joe Biden Speech on Florida Condo Building Collapse Transcript
President Joe Biden visited Florida and gave a speech on the Surfside condo building collapse on July 1, 2021. Read the transcript of his remarks here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
President Biden: (00:02)
Let me begin by saying that the degree of cooperation between local, state, and federal officials down here has been remarkable. I want to thank our FEMA director for leading this national effort, but covering the Senators Rubio and Scott, Congressman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Mayor Cava. They’ve all cooperated in ways that I haven’t seen in a long time. And it’s really a testament to how difficult things are down here. And it’s what, quite frankly, we miss a lot. We’ve all been working in tandem from the moment we got the news of the collapse of the building. And I think my colleagues will tell you we cut through the bureaucracy. The one order I gave the federal folks was no bureaucracy, just cut through, and get to whatever they need. That’s why we decided to cover, for example, 100% of the search and rescue costs for the first 30 days.
President Biden: (01:13)
Not done often, but necessary here in my view. And FEMA is going to provide temporary housing and other urgent needs for the survivors. State department is expediting visas for family members from other countries and there are from Latin America, South America, Europe, Israel. And I want to give a special shout out to the first responders, the International Association of Fire Fighters, one of the best organizations in the country. And I particularly want to thank the President Ed, came down from Boston and he’s here with the entire group. These folks were always showing up no matter what. They’re risking their lives. There’s that old expression, I know the press that travels with me is tired of hearing me saying, but I’m not tired of saying it. And that is that old expression: “God made man, then he made few firefighters,” they’re remarkable, remarkable people.
President Biden: (02:13)
They’re always risking their lives to save lives, as well as the police, and other first responders. I got to meet with a whole bunch of them and were able to employ nearly 500 personnel, including five other search and rescue teams on the ground today here because of our FEMA director ordered it, I want to compliment FEMA. And I might add, all those folks risking their lives to save lives but also holding out hope for those who will be found. Hope Springs Eternal. When I talked to those first responders, I pointed out that they’re under a great deal of stress and we should take advantage. They should take advantage of the mental health facilities that are going to be available because we talk about our military suffering from post-traumatic stress. We’ll see what they’re seeing, doing what they’re doing, understanding how much trauma is involved.
President Biden: (03:09)
I just don’t want them thinking that they should walk away from help if it’s needed. They stand together and it’s really impressive. And there’s also the need, in addition to state and local assistance, to determine the cause of this collapse and the adjacent buildings, how safe they are. There are two outstanding concerns. First, remaining buildings may collapse. The remainder of the building may collapse. We need to determine if it’s safe for first responders to return to the site to continue their rescue mission, that’s being done right now. And that’s why I asked the National Institute of Standards and Technology that’s set to investigate to see if it’s safe to go back and what caused the building to collapse in the first place, because we’re committed not only to recover, but to restore the safety across the board. But the other reason I came down was to meet with the families.
President Biden: (04:08)
The whole nation is mourning with these families. They see it every day on television, they’re going through hell. And those that survived the collapse, as well as those who are missing loved ones. I realize I’m a little late because I spend a lot of time with the families, a whole lot of time. And I apologize for taking so long to get here because I thought it was important to speak to every single person who wanted to speak to me. So after what you all covered, when I opened up the meeting, I spent the remainder of the time and such incredible people. I sat with one woman who had just lost her husband and her little baby boy, didn’t know what to do. I sat with another family that lost almost the entire family, cousins, brothers, sisters, and to watch them and they’re praying and pleading that, “God, let there be a miracle.”
President Biden: (05:10)
Let there be something happened for me that’s good because I have, like many of you do, some idea what it’s like to suffer that kind of loss so many of them are suffering. They had basic, heart-wrenching questions. Will I be able to recover the body of my son or daughter, my husband, my cousin, my mom and dad? How can I have closure without being able to bury them? If I don’t get the body, what do I do? Joel and I wanted them to know that we’re with them and the country’s with them. Our message today is that we’re here for you as one nation, as one nation. And that’s the message we communicated. We’ll be in touch with a lot of these families continuing through this process, but there is much more to be done. We’re ready to do it. And again, I thank the governor.
President Biden: (06:05)
I thank my colleagues, Senator Scott and Senator Rubio, I thank Debbie Wasserman Schultz, for their total complete cooperation. There’s no disagreement, no bickering. Everybody’s in the same team. It’s what America is all about. It’s about pulling together, leaving nobody behind. And that’s what made me feel, the one thing made me feel good about this is the cohesion that exists. There’s no Democrat or Republican out there. We’re just people wanting to do the right thing for their fellow Americans. So may God bless the victims and their families and may God protect our first responders. And I’ll take a couple questions right now.
What were you called today about the likelihood you said, “Hope Springs Eternal,” but that somebody will be able to be pulled out alive from this. And what were you able to convey to the families about that possibility?
President Biden: (07:05)
Well, look, first of all, the families are very realistic. They know the longer it goes. And one of the things that the local FEMA personnel, as well as the local first responders did is they took all of the families to the site to see what it looked like up close. And they’re all realists. They all look and they see those floors just literally cement upon cement upon a cement. When I talked to some of the families, some of the people who did escape, they survived, got out, they talked about watching the building collapse and watching as they’re in the garage, one floor come down, literally, as a whole floor on top of another floor. They know that the chances are, as each day goes by, diminish slightly, but at a minimum, they want to recover the bodies.
President Biden: (08:11)
They want to recover the bodies. There’s a lot of very religious people who are in there. Members of the Rabbis and the Jewish community were talking about the need to make sure that they recover the body and be able to bury them, give them the… Anyway, so I think they’re very realistic, Mike, but I don’t think that in any way suggests that we should stop. I think that we should move on, continue to try to recover the bodies. In the meantime, that’s why NIST and others are determining whether or not its safe to send the first responders back. When they’d asked me about this, I’d point out that the last thing they would want and we would want is in the process of trying to recover and the possibility there’s still a possibility someone could be alive, someone could still be breathing, someone could be there. That the last thing you want to have happen is have that building collapse and kill 10, 20, 30, 50 firefighters or wound them or first responders. So, but, Mike, they’re realistic, it just brought back so many memories it’s bad enough.
President Biden: (09:31)
It’s bad enough to lose somebody. But the hard part, the really hard part is to not know whether they’re surviving or not, just not having any idea. When the accident took my wife and my family, the hardest part was were my boys going to get out. Are they going to make it and not knowing, not knowing. When you’re flying home from Washington to get the news, you just don’t know. So, but I was amazed, as you know, unfortunately, I’ve done a lot of these circumstances where I’ve met with families who have had great loss and what amazed about this group of people was their resilience, their absolute commitment, their willingness to do whatever it took to find an answer. I walked away impressed by their strength, and Nancy Bloomberg. Do you have a question?
Nancy Bloomberg: (10:48)
Oh, thank you. Yeah. What did you learn, if anything, about the collapse of the building? Is there anything more you learned from investigators or the FEMA administrator?
President Biden: (10:57)
Oh, it’s underway. I don’t and the director of FEMA’s is with me here. We don’t have any firm proof of what’s happened. There’s all kinds of rational speculation about whether or not the rebars were rusted, whether or not the cement, whether it’s limestone or not, whether or not. But a lot of the families who survived, talked about how upset they were, that in the last years that they’ve been here, how there was one condominium complex built across the street and a road was purchased. And while they were living there, they would hear the drilling and they feel their building moving and shaking. There are all kinds of discussions about whether or not they thought that water level rising what impact it had and interesting to me, I didn’t raise it, but how many of the survivors and how many of the families talked about the impact of global warming?
President Biden: (12:05)
And they didn’t know exactly, but they talked about sea levels rising and the combination of that, and the concern about incoming storms, incoming tropical storms. And so, but I don’t think there is at this point any definitive judgment as to why it collapsed and what can be done to prevent it from happening and what other buildings may have to be inspected to determine if they have the same problems. I’m supposed to head out and catch up with the governor. So I want to thank you all for taking the time.
Mr President, may I ask you about two matters away from where we are now, versus, while you’ve been speaking, top associate of the former president has been in a New York court pleading not guilty to various financial charges. Do you have a reaction to that? And secondarily, if I can, does the Supreme court’s ruling today on an important voting rights decision add to the sense of urgency you feel about pursuing voting rights legislation at this time?
President Biden: (13:16)
I know nothing about the first circumstance because I’ve been gone. I don’t have any idea. So I’m not going to comment on that. And even if I did, I wouldn’t comment on an ongoing case, if it’s an ongoing case. With regard to the second point, I think I did get a summary on the way down on the plane of the Supreme court decision. It is mildly positive in the sense that there’s a remedy available based on the particular voting decision. I think that it is critical that we make a distinction between voter suppression and suspension, the ability of a state legislative body to come along and vote, their legislature vote to change who is declared the winner. I find to be somewhat astounding, but the Supreme court rule did not rule that way today, the best of my knowledge. And but I’ll have much more to say about that because I plan on speaking extensively on voting rights and as well as going on the road on this issue. So thank you all very much.