2022 Feature, Medium Newsroom finalist

Surfside: Persistent Trauma and Few Lessons Learned

About the Project

On June 24, 2021, the Champlain Towers South apartment building, in Surfside, Florida, suffered a partial collapse. Ninety-eight people died that night, in one of the deadliest accidental structural failures ever to occur in the United States.

Four blocks from Champlain Towers, another building suffers from severe structural problems, yet no steps are being taken to address them. Some neighbors live in fear that a similar disaster will take their lives.

“Surfside: Persistent Trauma and Few Lessons Learned” is a layered and nuanced multimedia story that explores two aspects of the Champlain Towers collapse: First, the grief and financial losses that still affect survivors and families of those who died. Second, the ripple effect the collapse had among neighbors who denounce similar failures and lack of oversight in a nearby building.

Our special report, which took eight months to produce, report and edit, starts with Mario Juárez, the owner of a condo at Harding Hall Condominium. Juárez is leading a fight to get urgent repairs done in their 51-apartment complex.

Harding Hall Condominium is a few blocks away from Champlain Towers. The majority of the owners have chosen not to invest in many of the changes—not even after the nearby collapse. We dug deep into what’s behind the resistance to address the needed structural repairs, as well as the failures in oversight that could represent a potential risk for buildings in Miami-Dade county.

The second part of the story explores the lingering impact of the Champlain Towers collapse in the lives of survivors, firefighters who worked at the scene and family members who lost loved ones.

Our multimedia package takes readers on a multi-sensorial journey through our character’s grief and trauma. There are very touching and emotional testimonies in video and text, photos, audio and user-generated content that bring the collapse close to readers.