People stop to say a prayer outside St. Joseph Catholic Church near the collapsed Champlain Towers South condo in Surfside, Fla., on July 7, 2021. Friday First Lady Jill Biden, Gov. Ron DeSantis and local officials attended a memorial for the 98 people killed in the condo collapse. Photo By Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo
June 24 (UPI) -- First Lady Jill Biden joined state and local Florida officials at a one-year memorial Friday for victims of the Surfside Champlain Towers condo collapse that killed 98 people. The victims were honored by family members, emergency officials and politicians at a morning public memorial.
"There is a fellowship of loss. To the uninitiated we look normal, average, whole. But like a secret handshake, I can spot them by the sadness that rests at the corner of their smile, by the curve of their shoulders as if they can still feel the small arms of a child wrapping their arms around their neck," Biden said, alluding to the pain of loss she and President Biden have shared.
"And though we are strangers, we know untellable truths about one another," she said. "That we will spend the rest of our lives longing for a face that is gone forever. And that when they left our world they took a light inside of us with them."
She told those gathered at the memorial on behalf of President Biden "we stand by you, today and always."
She said, "We are praying for you and we are grieving with you."
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the 98 people killed in the condo tower collapse represented a cross-section of Florida. He said an entire community mobilized in support when the condo tower collapsed and he praised first responders for their efforts.
DeSantis said the state of Florida is providing $1 million toward a memorial for the victims.
And he said a section of the road where the condo tower stood is being renamed "98 Points of Light Road" to memorialize the victims.
Other events include a special mass at nearby St. Joseph's Catholic Church Friday night. First responders will join the Miami Marlins on the field as they hold a moment of silence before Friday night's game.
On Thursday, a Miami judge approved a $1.2 billion settlement for unit owners and families of those who died in the collapse.
Judge Michael Hanzman said victims, families of the deceased, numerous defendants and their insurance companies were able to agree on a settlement within a year of the incident.
Hanzman thanked the dozens of attorneys involved in the complicated case. The judge said it avoids the need for a trial that could have lasted a decade.
"These victims and families would have had to suffer through that and endure this trauma over and over and over again," Hanzman said, according to National Public Radio.
Condo unit owners will also split the proceeds of the sale of the land where the Champlain Towers South building stood, which officials believe will bring in $96 million.