Church clings to hope as 9 families missing after Champlain Towers South building collapse

Members of the South Florida Urban Search and Rescue team look for possible survivors in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 26, 2021 in Surfside, Florida.
Members of the South Florida Urban Search and Rescue team look for possible survivors in the partially collapsed 12-story Champlain Towers South condo building on June 26, 2021 in Surfside, Florida. | Getty Images/Joe Raedle

Parishioners at the Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Miami Beach, Florida, are still clinging to hope as members of at least nine families that lived in the Champlain Towers South in Surfside remain missing after its catastrophic collapse last Thursday.

“We still have that faith because you never know. We’ve seen it in other tragedies where the most miracles have happened, and even the most difficult situations people have survived for days. So we still have hope. We still do,” Gypsy Lodos, the church's director of faith formation, told The Christian Post Monday.

Since half of the 13-story Champlain South Towers building collapsed Thursday, more than 150 residents remain unaccounted for, CNN reported. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava also revealed Monday that at least 11 people had been confirmed dead as rescue officials indicate chances of finding more survivors are dwindling by the day. At a press conference Monday night, the mayor warned that the death toll “numbers are very fluid.”

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“Just bear with me what I’m about to say,” Ray Jadallah, a Miami-Dade Fire Rescue assistant chief, said during a Saturday briefing. “It’s going to sink in. I understand it’s very emotional. It’s not necessarily that we’re finding victims. We’re finding human remains.”

Lodos told CP that her church, which is approximately two blocks away from the tower, has been hosting prayer vigils since the tragedy. On Sunday, she said, it was a bittersweet gathering for her community because while many multiple members who lived in the building remain missing, several others also survived the collapse.

“We have parishioners who did make it out safely,” Lodos said. “I think we’re at 12. I’ve been able to speak to a couple of the families and other people [who] know them. One of them was very grateful. He said God protected them, that they were guided by Jesus to go down. So they are very grateful for the parish support and glad to be alive here at church and being able to worship.”

While survivors are celebrating, Lodos said many of them are “still in shock” and were not yet ready to speak publicly about what they endured.

More than 300 emergency personnel, including teams from Israel and Mexico, are working around the clock, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been called in to help search for survivors, The New York Times reported.

In an interview with “Good Morning America” Monday, Chief Andy Alvarez of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue said they are hoping to find a “miracle" despite the challenge of the “frantic effort” to find survivors. 

“We have 80 workers at a time that are breaching the walls that have obviously collapsed in a frantic effort to rescue those that are still viable and to get to those voids that we typically know exist in these buildings,” he said.

“We have found voids within the building that we’ve been able to penetrate, mostly coming from underneath the basement of what used to be the garage. And we have been able to tunnel through the building. But this is a frantic search to continue to see that hope, that miracle, to see who we could bring out of this building alive,” he added.

And Lodos agrees that for now, hope is what her church family has.

“You know the last thing we lose is the hope … even when you know there isn’t even the hope of finding them alive, or [just] the hope they are reunited in Heaven. We don’t know. Only God knows the plans,” she said.

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