Brooklyn Boro

This time the sky really fell

July 30, 2021 William A. Gralnick
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Well, Chicken Little was finally right or so it seemed. The sky was falling in Surfside, Florida. If you are a writer and live in south Florida you must write something about the stunning building collapse, even if you write sci-fi. This article won’t be much on facts. They have been published in every major print media in the nation and recited on every electronic news outlet as well. If somehow you’ve missed them, google is your friend. Look’em up. This article will be the supposings of someone who moved to one year after the building opened for occupancy.

If in fact there is any good news, and this is a stretch, it’s that the building was not tall by the standards of the area. Each builder struggled to find sightlines to the intercoastal waterway or the ocean. As one building blocked some of those lines of previously built buildings the next to come were taller. It is unimaginable to think of such a collapse happening to a 30, 40, 50 story building or higher. Perish the thought.

Another good story but with black crepe fringes is Hurricane Andrew. So ferocious was the storm that an employee of mine, whose wife was very pregnant, went into the bathroom, as all are advised (it has no windows and lots of pipes in the walls for structural integrity). He held a mattress to the door with all his might, his back to the wall, his feet in the middle of the mattress. At the end they were looking at the sky. She went into labor. He tried to hail a helicopter (truth!) and failed, got into their SUV, flattened all four tires. Somehow an ambulance showed up. She lost the baby.

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The wreckage strewn all over the landscape was an in-your-face moment for people, politicians, and builders. It wasn’t long before Dade County, now Miami-Dade County, had the strictest storm laws in the county, so good that they were adopted by the insurance industry. New construction has hurricane proof glass. Garage doors have a six-inch metal bar fixed horizontally to its inside. The way roofs were put on was changed. To give you a glimpse of what a Cat 5 storm can do here are two things I saw on television. One was a construction cart filled to the brim with debris. It must have weighted tons. The wind pushed it down the street like a self-automated vehicle. When it stopped, by hitting a house, it demolished it. Another was a piece of steel rebar that flew through the air like a lance and pierced a metal door.

Sentinels of lie and death

Before Andrew it was well known that construction had to be watched. Inferior materials were used. Lesser amounts were used. Beams and rebars were found placed too far from one another. Same with roof anchors. In other words, in a sense, the buildings were built to come down. It was two years ago that a bridge leading over a roadway to Florida International University fell down with people on it and cars under it. Three days after this building collapse, inspectors who were now fanning out all over the area, found an apartment building that has three balconies, in such critical shape that they are waiting for that last straw that would break and bring them down. They saved another disaster.

I worked for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s department. I knew men and women who did rescue work like this. I knew dogs who were trained for rescue and one trained for cadaver retrieval. It is ugly, soul-searing work, yes even for the dogs. What do you think was in the mind of the firefighter who tripped in the rubble and fell 25 feet? There are trained people, working with the men and the dogs looking for pieces of skin and bone, first to identify by DNA and then to give a proper burial. This is the kind of thing that when you see it, it makes you throw up.

“If you’re there, i’ll find you.”

So, what caused it? The professionals say it will be months before a conclusive answer is known. We do know that signs, proverbially as large has highway billboards, had been found about the impending doom. It was reported that the sand on which the foundation was put had shifted over the years some 2.5 inches. Not a lot? Haul out your game of Jenga and see what the slightest imbalance can do to a structure. While not unusual in a Miami Beach rainstorm to be walking ankle deep in backed up storm sewer water, when that happens repeatedly in a garage, as it did in Surfside, it is a bad sign of things to come. Concrete is porous, water, some salty, seeps into the concrete, rusts the steel that gives it strength and…

If you had a crack in your ceiling or on your walls that kept getting bigger, wouldn’t you ask someone why? Sure, you would.

Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Heroes

What you would’ve gotten was a nice letter from the condo board assuring you all was well. You didn’t know that many on the board had already resigned. Then there was the report from 2018 that basically said “abandon ship.” That went into someone’s drawer or safe. Then came another letter giving a glimpse into the problems the building had. It said it would take $19 million to fix. No, the board didn’t have the money. The residents would have to pay in effect to save their own lives. Joshua was about to blow his horn, bring down the walls, and there was no one to lead the people after they came down. That’s why I suspect there  multiples of condo board members resigned or not, building contractors, inspectors who are grabbing the midnight train to Georgia. Somebody’s goin’ to the big house.

Having lived here 40 years, my scent senses tell me there’s something rotten in Surfside and some folks are going to jail because of it—at least from my perspective.

No commercials, no come-ons. This one has to stand alone and be absorbed.


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