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The mayor of Surfside, Fla., struggled to fight back tears Monday as he recalled going to the scene of the town’s tower collapse and finding a little girl sitting nearby keeping vigil for her missing parent.
“One of her parents was in that building at the time of the collapse,’’ Mayor Charles Burkett said of the 11- or 12-year-old child.
“When I came across her, she was sitting in a chair by herself with nobody around her, looking at her phone.
“And I knelt down, and I asked her, ‘So what are you doing? Are you OK?’ ” the mayor said. “And what she was telling me … she was reading a Jewish prayer to herself, sitting at the site by where one of her parents presumably is.
“And that broke my heart,’’ he said. “That really brought things home for me.
“She wasn’t crying. She was just lost. She didn’t know what to do, what to say, who to talk to. And I was looking for her this morning at that family meeting, and I didn’t see her. But I am going to find her, and I am going to tell her that we are all here for her.
“I’m going to tell her that she just needs to come to me for anything she needs, because that’s the face of this problem, of this disaster, right here — that little girl,” the mayor said.
“By herself, completely lost, sitting there, on the deck, looking at the pile of rubble imaging one of her parents is in there. That should never happen.”
“It’s horrific, this is disturbing,’’ Burkett said.
The mayor added that he had seen the child at the scene before with her surviving parent after the Champlain Towers South Condo catastrophe Thursday outside Miami Beach. Her surviving parent lives in a nearby building, and she would shuttle back and forth between there and the condo tower to spend time with them, Burkett said.
More than 150 people are still missing in Thursday’s catastrophe outside Miami Beach.
At least 10 are now confirmed dead.
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