MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – As crews search through tons of broken concrete and twisted rebar for more remains at the site of the Champlain Towers South collapse, they are also trying to recover keepsakes for families that have lost relatives and for surviving residents of the building.
Each time crews find personal possessions, they take photos and log the location using GPS. They have made a grid of the pile, knowing approximately where each family’s condo unit should be. Detectives place the objects into a bin. They are taken to an area to be cataloged and sealed in bags. Then they are placed in a locked and guarded cargo container for later shipment to a warehouse.READ MORE: Florida Records Highest One-Day Total Of COVID Cases With 21,000
A database has been set up for people to upload information about missing property.
When the body of four-year-old Emma Guara was pulled from the rubble, she was wearing the silver necklace her mother recently gave her, the pendant shaped like half a heart and inscribed “Little Sis.”
When firefighters found her 11-year-old sister, Lucia Guara, she was not wearing her near-matching necklace, the pendant shaped like the other half of the heart and inscribed “Big Sis.” Lucia had developed an allergic reaction and had temporarily stopped wearing hers, said their aunt, Digna Rodriguez.
“We would like to get that necklace back,” Rodriguez said. “They loved those necklaces.”
The girls’ parents, Anaely Rodriguez and Marcus Guara, also died in the collapse. They were among the first recovered from the rubble. The girls were buried in the same coffin last week, Emma wearing her necklace.
For the possessions of the deceased, there will be an “estate process” to claim items to make sure they get to the proper heir, Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez said.READ MORE: Royal Caribbean Expands COVID Testing Requirements
Rachel Spiegel, who lost her 66-year-old mother, Judy Spiegel, in the collapse, hopes the crews will find her family’s mementos. Her mother’s remains were recovered Friday.
“All my parents’ stuff over a lifetime is gone,” Rachel Spiegel said. “Their wedding album is gone. My dad’s wine collection is gone, all my mom’s jewelry, all my mom’s clothes, the dress she wore at my wedding that I wanted to wear one day. All of their belongings are gone. We have nothing.”
Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett, who has visited the site repeatedly since the collapse, said crews are finding items as small as rings and jewelry in the rubble.
“The work is so delicate that we’re even finding unbroken wine bottles,” Burkett said. He said because of the information families have provided, search teams often know what to look for in specific parts of the pile. He held up a photo of a ring that was found in the wreckage where searchers believed it would be.
“They’re expecting to find these things. And in this case, they did,” Burkett said.
Ramirez said special consideration is being taken for religious property. Rabbis have toured the processing area to ensure that religious artifacts are properly stored and handled with care. He said some of the items have enormous significance.
“It could be the smallest little thing that to a common person it just looks like a little container. It really means generations. It’s very spiritual, and I’m just so impressed. Our officers are learning so much about culture,” he said. “There are just so many dynamics with the sadness and the sorrow.”MORE NEWS: Activists Hold 'Down With The Chains' Rally At Bayfront Park Saturday
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)