President Joe Biden capped off an emotional day in Florida on Thursday by visiting a memorial wall honoring those lost or missing in the building collapse in Surfside, after a wrenching day meeting with families who lost loved ones.
It was an unscheduled stop for Biden at the end of a trip where he spent the entire day meeting with families, local officials, and responders.
With the site itself deemed unstable due to shifting debris amid fears of a further collapse, Biden’s motorcade drove to the Surfside Wall of Hope & Memorial, a fence covered with flours, signs, and photos of those lost or feared gone.
First lady Jill Biden, wearing a black dress, carried a bouquet of white flowers. The couple bent down on several occasions to examine individual mementos.
Another sign said ‘Our hearts are broken for those who have passed We pray for them and we pray for peace for all the families.’Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
At one point Biden gripped a remembrance that resembled a rosary. Each looked at individual signs and images. One white cardboard sign said simply ‘We love first responders’ with a heart.
President Joe Biden and Jill Biden capped their day in Miami with an unscheduled stop at a Memorial Wall
The first lady placed the flowers on the curb at the roadside memorial between some candles. Onlookers watched the event in silence. Several snapped pictures of the presidential motorcade when it departed after the visit.
The stop came after Biden got visibly emotional, choking up after talking to the families of the victims of the Champlain Tower collapse, saying it reminded him of the deaths of his first wife and daughter.
'So many of them are suffering. You know, they had basic heart wrenching questions. Will I be able to recover in the body of my son or daughter, my husband, my cousin, my mom and dad. How can I close without being able to bury them. If I don't get the body, what do I do,' he said of after spending nearly an hour with them.
'They know that the chances as the days go by diminish slightly,' he noted.
Biden took a few deep breathes as he went on, saying the conversations 'just brought back so many, so many memories.'
A 1972 car crash took the life of his first wife, Neilia, as well as his infant daughter, Naomi. His two sons, Beau and Hunter, were injured in the accident.
'It’s bad enough to lose somebody. But the hard part, the really hard part is to not know if somebody survived,' he said. 'When the accident took my wife, my family, the hardest part was were my boys going to get out, are they going to make it.'Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
He said it was unclear what caused the 12-story beachfront condo building in Miami to collapse last week. There are still 145 people missing as rescue operations continue. At least 18 people have died.
'I don't think there is at this point any definitive judgment as to why it collapsed, and what can be done to prevent it from happening,' Biden said.
President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden visit a memorial put in place for the victims of the building collapse in Surfside
First lady Jill Biden places a bouquet of flowers at the memorial site as President Biden looks on
President Biden touches the flowers on the Memorial Wall as Jill Biden looks on
President Joe Biden hugs Incident Commander Mayor Daniella Levine Cava as he and first lady Jill Biden arrive to visit the memorial wall
The Bidens held a moment of silence and bent their heads in prayer
President Biden examines one of the signs on the makeshift memorial site
President Joe Biden choked up talking about the families of the victims of condo building collapse in Surfside
First lady Jill Biden listens as President Biden speaks about his visit with families
Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz represents the district where the tragedy occurred and was with Biden at the memorial and throughout the day.
She attended the meeting Biden held with families behind closed doors. ‘They’re just sharing their stories,’ she told DailyMail.com.
She said there was ‘just no one better at really connecting’ in circumstances like these than Biden. ‘He’s just extraordinary,’ she said, having met daily with family members in the days since the collapse.
The president also met with fire and rescue personnel who are engaged in the wrenching and laborious task of contending with the devastating building collapse and its aftermath, telling the responders 'What you're doing is incredible.'
Biden scheduled a meeting with dozens of first responders soon after arriving at a hotel blocks from the disaster seen of the Champlain Tower collapse.
'I just want you to know - I understand,' he told them. 'I just want to say: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,' he told them.'
Biden met the responders, who wore Miami-Dade Fire and Rescue jackets, FEMA patches, and police uniforms, at the St. Regis hotel in Bar Harbour, where he is devoting a day to meeting with families, public officials, and responders.
At one point, he recounted how first responders used 'jaws of life' to pry his sons out of the vehicle during that 1972 car crash.
'What you're doing is incredible,' President Joe Biden told first responders are responding to the tragic building collapse in Surfside, Florida
He urged them to 'be careful' in the work, amid concerns that shifting or instability in the rubble could pose a risk. Work was suspended after about 2 am amid the safety concerns.
'I promise you: I know. What you're doing here is incredible,' he told them.
'What you’re doing now is just hard as hell to deal with, even psychologically, to deal with,' he said.
The event was a photo 'spray,' and reporters weren't invited to stay for long. Other notables, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio, arrived shortly after it began, with an apology from staff.
His visit came on a day when work was being suspended indefinitely due to safety issues.
When Biden met with families, he did so away from the cameras, although staff and other public officials were there.
According to the White House, the president delivered brief remarks from the center of a room. He went table to table to meet with family members. The first lady, Rubio, Scott, and DeSantis were there.
Others also went table-to-table, according to a senior administration official. 'POTUS stayed until everyone had a chance to speak with him,' said the official, using an acronym for the president.
Earlier, Biden told DeSantis 'we're here to help' shortly before he met with rescue crews looking for the 145 people still missing in the rubble of the collapsed Miami condo and spoke to officials leading the recovery.
He spoke to the 'a lot of pain and anxiety, suffering' of families awaiting the final word on their relatives as search efforts were halted over fears the rest of the structure could fall on first responders.
'We're not going anywhere,' Biden promised, as he spoke of the federal response, which includes dispatching FEMA and a promise of federal aide. 'For real,' he added, for emphasis.
Biden met with dozens of responders, and urged them to take caution, telling them 'I understand'
Biden met with responders after a meeting with Florida state and local political leaders about the response
The rescue teams continued to work with 145 people still not located
Most of the board members of the condominium that collapsed last week resigned in 2019, with the president of the board slamming inaction and bickering over an engineers report calling for urgent repairs
Joe Biden family in 1972 appears on a postcard that was used for Biden's first campaign for the U.S. Senate. Pictured are (l-r) Hunter Biden, Neilia Biden and infant daughter Naomi Biden, Joe Biden, and Beau Biden
This is the remains of the car in which the wife and daughter of Delaware's U.S. Senator-elect Joseph R. Biden Junior were killed. Neilia Biden and her daughter, Amy, 1, were killed when the family's station wagon was hit broadside by a flat-bed tractor-trailer on highway. Biden's two other children were also hurt in the wreck and were listed in "guarded condition" at the hospital
'Tell me what you need?' he told officials who gathered in the St. Regis hotel blocks away from the site.
Biden was seated next to DeSantis, as well as Daniella Levine Cava, the mayor of Miami-Dade County. He was seated across from two Republican rivals, Sen. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida, Scott sporting the same familiar Navy cap he wore on disaster visits with former President Donald Trump.
'You know what's good about this?' Biden said: 'It lets the nation know we can