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Hurricane Season Prompts Preservation Of Items On Surfside Memorial Wall

HistoryMiami Museum catalogued and took down mementos on Aug. 30, 2021, along the Surfside memorial in honor of the Champlain Towers South victims.
Verónica Zaragovia
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HistoryMiami Museum catalogued and took down mementos on Aug. 30, 2021, along the Surfside memorial in honor of the Champlain Towers South victims.

Wearing blue plastic gloves, Leo Soto pointed to mementos Monday morning — each item at the Surfside memorial placed there to honor the 98 people who died in the June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South building.

He walked with an employee of the HistoryMiami Museum who was helping to catalogue the items. Soto showed him the stuffed animals that came from the collapse site, like a Winnie the Pooh bear.

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Verónica Zaragovia

"The one that says my baby’s first Pooh Bear, the little shirt, there’s an actual picture of that same teddy bear in the rubble," Soto said, adding that a rescue worker brought the bear from the collapse site to the memorial.

Now these things need to be preserved. The HistoryMiami Museum took them down and put them in a truck so they could get preserved at an off-site storage facility, not to the museum itself in downtown Miami.

The urgency to bring the memorial down came as the peak of hurricane season approaches. Hurricane Ida just devastated parts of Louisiana this week after making landfall Sunday.

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Veronica Zaragovia


"When the county and Surfside asked if we would help, we said absolutely, we’ll want to be part of this," said Michele Reese Granger director of marketing at HistoryMiami. "It’s so important to remember the lives lost and to keep their legacy alive."

surfsidehistorymiami1.jpg
Verónica Zaragovia
People working for HistoryMiami Museum brought mementos of the Surfside memorial in honor of Champlain Towers South victims to a truck on Aug. 30, 2021, so that they could be preserved at an off-site storage facility.

Soto, too, plans to continue his own work in preserving memories of loved ones. He recently launched the Wall of Hope Foundation to help other communities create similar spaces, like the one in Surfside.

People need a central place to find each other and mourn, otherwise they're suffering alone, Soto said.

"What I’ve learned is that when a tragedy happens, you have to make an effort to comfort others," he added. "You have to do everything you can to spread love."

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