Biden Meets With Families of Surfside Victims

SURFSIDE, Fla. — President Biden on Thursday provided impassioned remarks in a resort ballroom crammed with the households of some of those that died or stay lacking beneath the rubble of a collapsed condominium constructing, in accordance with White House officers and people within the room.

Mr. Biden’s assembly with the households got here as native officers introduced a halt within the seek for survivors amid considerations in regards to the stability of the half of the constructing that is still standing.

A video of Mr. Biden posted through the occasion by one of the members of the family appeared to indicate the president speaking in somber tones in regards to the grief he felt from the loss of life of his spouse and daughter in a automobile accident that additionally severely injured his two younger boys.

“The waiting, the waiting, is unbearable,” he advised the households, many of whom have been ready for greater than per week for phrase about whether or not anybody may nonetheless be alive beneath the concrete and metal.

After the assembly, Mr. Biden described the grief and agony he heard from the members of the family as he spent greater than three hours within the ballroom, saying of the individuals within the room: “They’re going through hell.”

“I sat with one woman who had just lost her husband and her little baby boy, didn’t know what to do,” the president stated. “I sat with another family that lost almost the entire family, cousins, brothers, sisters. And to watch them, and they’re praying and pleading and God let there be a miracle.”

Mr. Biden stated that many of the members of the family requested what he referred to as “basic heart-wrenching” questions: Would they be capable to get better the our bodies of their family members so they might bury them? If I don’t get the physique again, what do I do?

But on the identical time, he stated he was stunned by their realism and resilience.

“They know that the chances are, as each day goes by, diminished slightly,” the president advised reporters. “But at a minimum, at a minimum, they want to recover the bodies. They want to recover the bodies.”

The president praised emergency staff and native and state officers, saying that the cooperation within the rescue effort was exceptional. Mr. Biden introduced that the federal authorities would pay 100 p.c of the primary 30 days of the restoration prices.

He stated he advised the households that “we’re here for you as one nation, as one nation. And that’s the message we communicated.”

A White House official stated that through the closed-door session with the households, Mr. Biden walked from desk to desk to speak with every household seated within the room. The official stated that Jill Biden, the primary girl, additionally held particular person conversations with members of the family.

The president was joined by Senator Marco Rubio, Senator Rick Scott, Gov. Ron DeSantis, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami Dade County.

The official stated that Mr. Biden stayed within the room till everybody who wished to speak with him had the chance.

After the assembly with the households, Mr. Biden and Dr. Biden made a quick cease on the makeshift memorial to the victims of the collapse, strolling alongside a chain-link fence adorned with flowers, stopping a number of instances to look intently at pictures of those that have died or stay lacking.

Dr. Biden positioned a big bouquet of white flowers on the base of the fence earlier than the pair returned to the president’s motorcade.

Erick de Moura, a resident of the constructing who spent the night time of the collapse at his girlfriend’s home, praised Mr. Biden as he and different survivors and victims’ households left the ballroom on the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort.

“For him to take his time like he’s taking right now just walking around and talking to every single family, it’s just an amazing act and we appreciate it very much. It’s comforting for us,” Mr. de Moura stated.

Rabbi Daniel Hadar, the pinnacle rabbi of Temple Moses Sephardic Congregation of Florida, an Orthodox synagogue in Miami Beach, stated that the tone of the assembly signaled a shift from different conferences with households during the last week. Over a dozen individuals affiliated with the synagogue, only a couple of miles from Champlain Towers, have been within the constructing on the time of the collapse.

“There was something for the first time I’m seeing: consolation,” stated Rabbi Hadar. Whereas in earlier conferences with officers, Hadar has seen households have expressed anger and frustration with the rescue course of, households expressed “peace and appreciation.”

“I think a lot of people are either resigning themselves, or understanding that there is hope, and the best hope is to work with these guys and to hear what they have to say,” Rabbi Hadar added.