SURFSIDE, Florida (AP) – When the body of 4-year-old Emma Guara was pulled from the rubble of a Florida condo collapse last month, she was wearing the silver necklace her mother had recently given her, the pendant shaped like a charm half-hearted and labeled “Little Sis”.
When firefighters found her 11-year-old sister, Lucia Guara, she was not wearing her almost-matching necklace, which had a pendant shaped like the other half of the heart and labeled âBig Sisâ. Lucia developed an allergic reaction and temporarily stopped wearing it, said her aunt Digna Rodriguez.
“We’d love to get this necklace back,” said Rodriguez. “You loved those necklaces.”
The girls’ parents, Anaely Rodriguez and Marcus Guara, also died in the collapse of Champlain Towers South on June 24, in which at least 94 people were killed and 22 went missing. They were among the first to be recovered from the rubble. The girls were buried in the same coffin last week, Emma wore her necklace.
While searching tons of broken concrete and twisted rebar for more remains, authorities are also trying to find keepsakes for families who have lost relatives and for surviving residents of the building. They have set up a database where people can upload information about missing property.
Every time the crews find personal belongings, they take photos and log the location using GPS. They made a grid out of the heap and roughly knew where each family’s condos should be. Detectives put the items in a container. They are taken to an area to be cataloged and sealed in bags. Then they are placed in a locked and guarded freight container for later dispatch to a warehouse.
The deceased’s possessions will go through an “inheritance process” to claim items to ensure they get to the correct heir, said Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez.
Miami-Dade Police Sgt. Danny Murillo, a chief of the operation, said the process must be designed through “trial and error” as the collapse of a tower block is “not your everyday occurrence.” He said it can be emotional when an object such as a children’s toy is found.
âWe are all human,â he said.
Rachel Spiegel, who lost her 66-year-old mother Judy Spiegel in the breakdown, hopes the crews find her family’s memorabilia. Her mother’s remains were recovered on Friday.
“All of my parents’ things in life are gone,” said Rachel Spiegel. âYour wedding album is gone. My father’s wine collection is gone, all of my mother’s jewelry, all of my mother’s clothes, the dress she wore to 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.
âThe work is so delicate that we even find bottles of wine that are still unbroken,â says Burkett. He said that because of the information provided by families, search teams often know what to look for in certain parts of the pile. He held up a photo of a ring found in the rubble where the seekers suspected it was.
âYou expect to find these things. And in this case they did, “said Burkett.
Ramirez said religious property would be given special consideration. Rabbis have toured the processing area to ensure that religious artifacts are properly stored and handled with care. He said that some of the items are of tremendous importance.
âIt could be the smallest thing that looks like a small container to an ordinary person. It really means generations. It’s very spiritual and I’m just so impressed. Our officers learn so much about culture, “he said.” There are just so many dynamics with sadness and sorrow. “
Kennedy reported from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
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