FIU remembers bridge victims at two memorials

The FIU flag flew at half mast in memory of those who died in the bridge collapse in 2018. Photo by Joshua Ceballos/PantherNOW

By: Joshua Ceballos/News Director


Groups gathered on opposite sides of the Modesto Maidique Campus to remember the lives of those who died in the FIU bridge collapse one year ago, including an FIU student.

Friday, March 15, 2019 marked the one year anniversary of the collapse of the FIU bridge over Southwest Eighth Street and the death of six including University student Alexa Duran. On the anniversary, University administration and Duran’s family gathered on opposite sides of the Modesto Maidique Campus to honor the lost in separate ways.

At Betty Chapman Plaza, the area in front of the Graham Center, University community members and administration participated in a moment of silence at 1:47 p.m., the time of the collapse on Thursday, March 15, 2018.

Deacon Ralph Gazitua leads the moment of silence proceedings in front of first responders from the Miami-Dade Police and Fire Rescue departments who worked in the aftermath of the collapse.

On the other side of MMC, at the site of the collapse on SouthWest Eight Street, Duran’s family– wearing shirts with her face and name printed on– held their own memorial. Family members told Student Media that although they are thankful that FIU has made their own memorial for their lost loved one, the pain has not diminished.

Alexa Duran’s family held and released balloons with her name on them at the site of the collapse. Photo by Zoe Chin/PantherNOW.

“It seems like it was yesterday and no time has gone by,” said Jessy Smitha, Duran’s aunt. “The pain is still there and it will be for a long long time.”

Back at the plaza, a moment of silence was led by Deacon Ralph Gazitua, deacon for Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. Gazitua said a prayer for the six individuals who died during the collapse: Duran, Rolando Fraga Hernandez, Oswald Gonzalez, Alberto Arias and Navarro Brown.

First responders who were present at the bridge site in the days following the collapse, including officers from the Miami-Dade Police and Fire Rescue departments, stood behind Gazitua as he recited the prayer and led the moment of silence.

Everyone in attendance held hands and bowed their heads as the hush took hold over the plaza. After some time, the Graham Center bell rang six times: once for each person who passed away.

Sabrina Rosell and Jefferson Noel, presidents of the student government councils at MMC and at the Biscayne Bay Campus respectively, attended the event in solidarity with the mourners and tried to find a silver lining in the sadness of the tragedy.

SGC-MMC President Sabrina Rosell (Center) stands beside SGC-BBC President Jefferson Noel (Left) and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Elizabeth Bejar (Far left) at the memorial. Photo by Joshua Ceballos/PantherNOW

“We’re distraught about what happened a year ago, and we’ve been working our best to recover from what happened,” said Noel to Student Media. “This moment of silence was another step in coming to grips with what occurred.”

Rosell said that although this is one of the saddest ways the community can come together,it’s impressive to see everyone come together and set aside their differences to remember the lives that were lost, especially the loss of fellow student Duran.

Duran’s family, ;like Rosell, also recognizes the significance of the community coming together.

Duran’s cousin, Robert Smitha, said that the University has shown courage by supporting their family through the loss, because they have taken responsibility for the pain that was caused by the collapse. But, said Robert, FIU still holds some blame and he would like top administrators to take that on.

“I want President Mark B. Rosenberg to admit that he’s learned something from this situation,” said Robert. “I saw my cousin crushed alive and suffocated. We have to live with that every day.”

Duran was a sister of Alpha Xi Delta sorority. Members of her sorority were present at the moment of silence, but they did not want to comment to Student Media.

Alexa Duran’s family members gathered near the site of the collapse, wearing shirts with her name and face to commemorate her life.

Duran’s father Orlando did not want to comment on the University itself and its role in the death of his daughter, saying “at the end of the day it’s my alma mater as well.”

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