Martin Langesfeld recalls exactly where he was and what he was doing on June 24, 2021.
“I was out with friends about 1:20 a.m.,” Langesfeld explained to ABC News’ Victor Oquendo. “I was having a good time. I couldn’t stop laughing. Little did I know that while I was laughing, my sister’s building had vanished.”
Langesfeld’s sister was among the 98 people killed when the Champlain Towers South, which stood along South Florida’s famous Atlantic coast, collapsed into a tangle of glass, concrete, and steel.
Nicole Langesfeld and her new husband, Luis Sadovnic, were at home when tragedy struck. Martin Langesfeld says he lives with the pain every day.
Alfredo Lopez grew up in New York, but when his job relocated to South Florida, he found himself living on the sixth floor of Champlain Towers South with his family for what he thought would be a brief stay.
Champlain Towers South, located just north of the city limits of Miami Beach at 8777 Collins Avenue, was one of dozens of residential buildings perched between the street and the Atlantic Ocean. The building first opened its doors in 1981, and residents like Lopez were drawn to the quiet beachside life in a small community.
Raysa Rodriguez, who immigrated to the United States from Cuba with her family when she was three years old, also lived at Champlain Towers South.
Rabbi Eliot Pearlson of Temple Menorah in Miami Beach did not live at Champlain Towers South, but he felt as if he could have given how many members of his synagogue lived there – and how many times he visited over the course of 22 years.
Officer Alain Arzola was working his overnight shift in Indian Creek Village, about a mile away from the Champlain towers, when he heard emergency calls for help in neighboring Surfside. A structure had partially collapsed.
Lopez said he quickly realized he needed to get out of the building as soon as possible with his wife and son. They attempted to flee through the lobby, but the door was closed. Lopez eventually made his way to the parking garage with his wife and son, climbing over cars and sloshing through ankle-deep water before reaching the ground level through the pool deck while carrying 88-year-old neighbor Esther Gorfinkel on his shoulder.
First responders from across South Florida descended on the site as survivors of the collapse attempted to flee the crumbling building. Arzola said he was one of the first out-of-town cops to arrive and found a scene of fear that the rest of the structure would collapse.
Arzola and other emergency personnel were approached by a man who informed them that someone was trapped under the rubble. Arzola stated that he quickly located the individual, who was later identified as Champlain Towers South, a 15-year-old Johan Handler.
Arzola stated that he approached Handler, but the teenager was trapped in the rubble with his mother by his side and was unable to escape on his own. While debris flew and the remaining pieces of Champlain Towers South seemed to teeter above, the officer described talking with Handler, soothing him, and trying to keep him calm and alert.
Not only police officers, firefighters, and EMTs rushed to the scene of the collapse. Local religious leaders, such as Pearlson, went to 8777 Collins Avenue to check on the safety of their congregations.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has yet to issue an official statement about what caused the collapse. During a meeting on June 9, federal investigator Glenn Bell stated that “about two dozen hypotheses” are being “actively considered,” but no “clear initiating event” has been identified.
A judge approved a settlement worth more than $1 billion on Thursday, one day before the one-year anniversary of the collapse. According to the lawyers negotiating the deal, the funds would come from a variety of sources, with the largest portion ($515 million) coming from the former security firm for Champlain Towers South. Insurers would pay another $400 million or so to the developers of a condo project next door. Neither party has admitted any wrongdoing.