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COLUMN: Deadly condo collapse in Florida raises important questions

In the wake of the Surfside tragedy, Wendy King questions how and why something like this could happen and what lessons can be learned
2021-07-02 Rubble
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Does anyone else find themselves looking up at all the highrises and just wondering 'what if'?

With the tragedy that saw a 12-storey waterfront condominium literally crumble in Surfside, Fla., I find myself asking questions I never really thought about before.

Who was the builder? What were their credentials?

Was the building erected on solid ground?

Does the proximity to salt water erode concrete?

Were quality materials used in the construction?

Did anybody cut any corners they should not have?

Was everyone on the job site doing everything properly?

Are inspectors careful making sure everything is to code?

Those are just a few. 

I think I have taken a lot of things for granted just hoping everyone does their job correctly. 

The world now waits for answers on what exactly happened in Florida.

I remember when buying a home and not wanting to lay out money for a house inspection. Back then, I was only worried about the expense. Now, being older and hopefully wiser, I think that might have been among the most important expenditures.

It is vital to have a professional checking the foundation and wiring, etc. The things behind the walls are equally as important as what's visible.

I’m quite sure nobody in that Florida building ever considered the fact the ground beneath them could shift and their whole world could collapse.

In mere moments, life ended for more than 100 people. That may not be the official tally, but I think we all know the numbers will keep growing.

Aside from the sheer horror of it all, it also crossed my mind that hundreds of people are now quite literally homeless.

Everything they had, reduced to rubble. They refer to it as a pancake collapse.

Where do you even start to rebuild from that?

Can you even imagine the nightmare of dealing with banks, insurance and utility companies? Not to mention the human trauma.

Consider the people who still reside in the neighbouring tower. Would you feel safe going to sleep there?

I am in awe of the rescuers, both human and canine, as I watch the news unfold. What kind of superhuman qualities must they have to be able to sift through that mountain of concrete and stone, day by day?

Add in rain, wind and even hurricane warnings.

How do they handle what they may find?

It's heart-wrenching when they find a photo, a blanket or a teddy bear.

Then, there’s the sadness of all that effort and not finding much of anything.

They are all heroes in my book.

Of course, we onlookers can look away from the media coverage and take a breath. Those people can’t.

This investigation is going to take months, if not years. They say they will sort through the mountain of removed debris searching for answers.

How did it happen?

Why did it happen?

Is anyone to blame?

All of that is still to be investigated by the authorities.

Already, there are various reports of engineering surveys, and maintenance memos suggesting there had been warning signs.  Residents also reported shaking and swaying in the past.

Repairs were postponed for financial reasons and also because COVID-19 hit.

Do we all know our local condo board members?  

There are far too many absentee landlords, in my opinion. Do we know anything about them? Who do we go to for accountability?

Currently, all eyes are focused on the Florida collapse, but reporters will soon leave to cover other tragedies. Politicians will stop visiting the site. Life will move on, for most.

But to me there will always be that one glaring question: What do you do when your life has been reduced to rubble?

At that point, all that will remain is their inner strength, hope and faith.  

May their spiritual foundation be firm.

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About the Author: Wendy King

Wendy King writes about all kinds of things from nutrition to the job search from cats to clowns — anything and everything — from the ridiculous to the sublime. Watch for Wendy's column weekly.
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