Grim Updates, Caring Response After Collapse


This time, it’s the right thing to say.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the horrific Miami area condominium collapse and their families and other loved ones. Even from a distance, we share their grief and pain with every grim update from the emergency workers and rescue teams as they painstakingly sift through the rubble.

As we’ve seen too many times before, the bravery and selfless perseverance displayed by these workers in such dangerous conditions—including in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks— is an inspiration, and our prayers are with them too.

As we saw in lower Manhattan back then, and are seeing now in Miami, religious and charitable agencies, including Catholic parishes and organizations, are on the scene as well, aiding the survivors and arriving family members to minister in conditions that are not as dangerous as those of the rescue workers but are just as critical.

We applaud the religious and charitable women and men for the care and comfort they can offer to those suffering. They are the ones, too, whose presence will carry on going forward to aid the people directly impacted by the tragedy and to help the greater Miami community process its loss.

Father Juan Sosa, the pastor of St. Joseph parish, situated in the shadow of the 12-story semi-collapsed Champlain Towers South, offered a morning Mass for those missing, their families and friends in the hours after the post-midnight collapse June 25. As of Tuesday, 11 people were confirmed dead and some 150 were still unaccounted for.

Father Sosa was still waiting for word on the 10 unaccounted-for families who are his parishioners when this column went to press, while he prayed that perhaps some were away on vacation when the beachfront building fell.

Staff members of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami were on site almost immediately on learning of the tragedy, planning a response strategy that included counseling and identifying temporary shelter for displaced residents.

From a nearby community, St. Agatha's ministry to the homeless arrived at St. Joseph’s with water and other supplies for the rescue teams and their dogs.

Father Sosa visited the family reunification center at the nearby Surfside Community Center twice on the day following the catastrophe, where he was able to counsel some of the Catholic families there.

He also has opened his parish parking lot for the search and rescue and volunteer teams working on the site. We expect they’ll be using it for quite some time.

Here in New York, we remember the days stretching into weeks, weeks into months, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks that brought down the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Those of us who lived through those times remember them vividly as we approach the 20th anniversary of the tragedy this coming Sept. 11.

The scale of the Miami tragedy is, of course, much smaller than that of 9/11 in the number of victims and the size of the structure and, of course, the cause is very different. In Miami, the building collapse appears to have been the result of a catastrophic accident; in Manhattan, it was a terrorist attack.

But the grief and loss felt by those left behind will remain. We are thankful that the Church will remain there for them, and our own prayers will continue.