COLUMBUS (WCMH) – The death toll from the Surfside condo collapse in Florida is now up to 86, with 43 people still unaccounted for.
Crews continue doing all they can to find the rest of the victims, working day and night searching the rubble. Some members of those crews are from Ohio.
Ohio Task Force One has been at the scene in Florida for nearly a week and a half, working 12-hour shifts, doing everything they can to bring closure to the victims’ families.
Jack Reall is a task force leader with the 83-member Ohio Task Force One, joining teams from around the country and the world.
“Every day, you get a little bit more tired physically,” Reall said. “The emotional drain is constantly there, but we work through that.”
Reall is one of a handful of team members who also worked at the crash sites on Sept. 11, 2001.
He said his experience working in 2001 is being used in Surfside, both from the standpoint of physically working the site and all of the emotional tolls something like this can take. One of the triggers for Reall was seeing a bunk bed up in part of the building that was still standing.
“I’ve got grown kids now, but I looked at that and said, ‘Bunk bed. That’s where kids sleep,'” Reall said. “And I have no idea if that bunk bed was occupied or not. I have no idea what happened to the occupant of that apartment or anything. I don’t know if they got out. I don’t know if they didn’t.”
While the work is extremely hard, Reall said he tries to put himself into the victims’ families’ shoes to keep pushing through, knowing how important that closure is.
“We put ourselves in their shoes,” Reall said. “If it was my family member, loved one, friend, anything like that, I’d want to find them and provide the closure that’s important to that… to our family, to our community,” he said.
The mission officially turned from a search and rescue operation to a recovery operation earlier this week.
“These are long-term events and they do wear on you after a period of time,” he said. “We’re all looking forward to getting home, but we want to make sure when we go home, we know we’ve done the mission we came here to do.”
At this point, Ohio Task Force One isn’t sure when its members will be coming home.