An Urgent Message: The Surfside Condo Collapse, No Guarantees of Another Day

My heart broke the morning of June 24, 2021, when I got up and checked the news on Twitter and saw that at 1:15 AM EDT, a 13-story condo, Champlain Towers South, in Surfside, Florida, collapsed. Only one third of the building remained standing. Needless to say, I was in shock. I lived in Miami for 10 years from 1988-98. Around 1990 I lived on South Beach (Miami Beach), before it was hip. It was right on the beach. A 3rd-floor studio with a balcony facing south and overlooking the ocean. I admit, it was awesome!

Before that, I lived the beach life in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico for many years. In the picture below, look at the building in the far left. That’s where I lived on the 2nd floor. I worked at ESJ Towers, 3 buildings over. Yes, I walked to work via the beach every day. My favorite hangout was a great, little bar/restaurant a half a block to the east (not pictured) called “La Playita” (little beach), right on the water with a dock and a bar made from a boat. That was the life!

Beachfront living in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico.

Isla Verde is on the north coast of Puerto Rico to the east of San Juan. That’s the Atlantic Ocean. Funny thing, in the winter, the sea would take the beach away completely. That was frustrating for the tourists because, that was snowbird time and they really wanted to go to the beach! At my building, the waves would literally hit the building in the winter. As far as I can tell, it’s still standing, but after what I’ve discovered about the Surfside building collapse, I wouldn’t be surprised if its days were numbered.

Miami Living

I moved to Miami in 1988 and 2 years later to the beach. I absolutely loved it there. I worked across the bay in Downtown Miami and partied (I was a prodigal back then) on South Beach. My hangout there was across the street– a Mexican bar/restaurant. Then there was Penrods, which my balcony overlooked. Whenever there was a concert on the beach or the 4th of July fireworks, I had a front-row seat.

South Beach, 2006, the building I lived in was torn down and the white building you see first on the left as you go up the coast is now there. Probably a condo. The picnic area is what's left of South Pointe Park.
South Beach, 2006, the building I lived in was torn down and the white building you see first on the left as you go up the coast is now there. Probably a condo. The picnic area is what’s left of South Pointe Park.

I loved driving up and down Collins Ave. I loved living near the water, always a renter, however, I was never inclined to buy.

History buff that I am, I was fascinated by the history of Miami. It was swamp land. Miami Beach had mangroves where certain fish spawned. All those fish disappeared when they started developing it.

Greedy Developers

I can’t help but think of the greed of the developers. Don’t get me wrong, not all developers took shortcuts in construction like the builders of the Champlain Towers allegedly did. That’s still to be determined along, with the cause(s) of the collapse.

Miami Beach's "Concrete Canyon". That's Indian Creek to the left of the little strip of land and Collins Ave. Image from Google Earth.
Miami Beach’s “Concrete Canyon”. That’s Indian Creek to the left of the little strip of land and Collins Ave. Image from Google Earth.

While I lived in Miami, I watched the “concrete canyon” go up stealing every little bit of beachfront. They sold views at high prices and people paid them. Too bad no one told them of the risks.

All of South Florida is a swamp. Development in South Florida started back in the early 1900s. So, how do you make useless land into a money-maker? You fill it in. Now, I’m not an engineer, nor am I a builder or architect by any means. I just know as the years went by, greedy developers wanted to build as close to the water as possible, making use of every valuable square inch.

That was another problem. There was only so much space. You build a 10-20 story building with hundreds of apartments. They’ve got to park somewhere. Where? Under the building.

So, let’s review….

  • Building on an island that was mainly mangroves and swamp.
  • They filled it in. With what? Sand? Dirt? Rocks?
  • Down the line, that gets expensive. What’s cheaper — I mean, come on, they are there to make money, right? They filled it in with garbage. Yes, garbage. They called it “reclaimed land”. That is, land that was never there, nor was it meant to be there — landfill.

Champlain Towers South, being on the ocean, also had 40 years of weather. That included hurricanes, not landing, but passing by, coming close enough to cause high surf that eats at the shore. Listen to an expert…

Listen to this Miami architect talking about oceanfront building…

Interesting that it took a news agency from France to find this architect.

I could go into more details that I’ve seen on speculations, reports, inspections, etc. showing red flags on the safety of the building. Nevertheless, all you have to do is go over to Twitter and search the hashtags #Surfside or #SurfsideBuildingCollapse and you’ll get all the news you need including memorials of those who died and pictures of those sill missing.

Sinking Sand

I also lived, for a while, in a high-rise apartment across the bay from Surfside, in North Miami, 15th floor. Wonderful view! It, too, was built on “reclaimed land” aka, landfill/garbage/sinking sand. I was offered a buy-in when it went condo. There was a huge crack in one of the outer walls & I said, no way! Salt water and wind eat at these buildings. Never mind the tropical storms and hurricanes.

Six hurricanes later, I now live in Arizona.

Waterfront & beachfront living has its perks, but it also has its problems. In various places, we in America, have a crumbling infrastructure problem that needs immediate addressing so we don’t see more disasters like the Surfside building collapse.

In fact, just today, a condo in North Miami Beach was deemed unsafe and people were told to move out immediately!…

I looked up the address. Yep! Right on the water, a little inland, but also built on “reclaimed land”. I’ve driven by there dozens of times. I may have even visited someone there. It looks very familiar. My friends and I used to picnic at Oleta River State Park a couple of miles east of there. It’s a beautiful estuary (a blend of salt and fresh water). I remember that developers wanted to build there but the public objected. In that park, you can actually see mangroves.

2025 Northeast 164th Street, North Miami Beach, FL, Google Maps
2025 Northeast 164th Street, North Miami Beach, FL, Google Maps

Back to Surfside

UPDATE!!! 7/7/21 – Current count: 54 dead, 200 accounted for (which means that they survived the collapse or were not in the building when it fell or they died) and 86 people still unaccounted for. They’re now calling it a “recovery” mission — everyone is presumed dead. Family members who were fervently hoping for a miracle, now just want closure. I pray for the recovery workers, the survivors and the families of the dead several times a day.

They demolished the part of Champlain Towers South that was still standing on July 4 at 10:30 pm.

Which brings me to the reason for this special post before I start the next Bible study series on the Book of Judges. (Subscribe so you don’t miss out!)

Life is Short

Imagine going to bed at night feeling safe and secure (albeit, a false sense of security), and being woken up by a loud noise and shaking, then nothing — death. Or being awakened by a loud noise and shaking, then you run to the balcony or open the front door and seeing the rest of the building you live in GONE!

I won’t speculate on why some died and some survived. That’s a question to ask God when you get to heaven.

Given that, YOU are not guaranteed tomorrow!

27 …just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, 28 so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.

Hebrews 9:25-38 NLT

We are all infected with this deadly virus called death. We will all die sometime. That said, you have a choice NOW where you will spend eternity — Heaven or Hell.

Sinking Sand

The words “sinking sand” keep running through my mind. There’s an old hymn that has it in the chorus, “In Christ, the solid ground I stand. All other ground is sinking sand”. I’ve embedded that video below. But, Jesus mentioned building on sand and it’s very timely…

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Jesus, Matthew 7:24-27 NLT

Wow! Read that again!

Jesus said to His followers…

24 “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds.

Matthew 16:24-27 NLT

Click here for an in-depth study on what that means….

Jesus also told us…

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”

John 14:1-3 NLT

That is the Rapture, which can happen at any moment!

And finally, words of comfort and hope….

33 “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33 NLT

He overcame the world and when we believe in Him and accept Him as our Lord and Savior, we also overcome the world, as well as sin and death.

So, are you wise or foolish?

There is no time to waste! Are you ready to meet God today? You may just meet God today!

Don’t be a fool and listen to Jesus’ teaching! He tells the TRUTH, because He is GOD and GOD can’t lie! In that case, you MUST…

Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.

  • Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
  • Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180 in your life and surrender your life to Him.
  • Be Baptized — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
  • Receive the Holy Spirit in your heart.

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift and Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

The Solid Rock — All Other Ground is Sinking Sand

Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!


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