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Colombia’s new president, the healing process in Surfside, Wildlife Thursday: Florida panthers

Workers for HistoryMiami bag items to be preserved from the Surfside memorial on Monday, August 30, 2021.
Miami Herald
Workers for HistoryMiami bag items to be preserved from the Surfside memorial on Monday, August 30, 2021.

Colombia has its first left-wing president. It’s been one year since the tragic condo collapse in Surfside. We’re hearing from locals about the healing process. Plus, for Wildlife Thursday, we’re going to look at one of the most beloved species in the state — the Florida panther.

On this Thursday, June 23, edition of Sundial:

Colombia’s first left-wing president

Colombian citizens have voted for their new leader.

Gustavo Petro will be the country’s first-ever left-wing president. His win comes after a strong, long-brewing dissatisfaction from voters with the incumbent powerful right-wing government.

WLRN is here for you, even when life is unpredictable. Our journalists are continuing to work hard to keep you informed across South Florida. Please support this vital work. Become a WLRN member today. Thank you.

WLRN’s Americas Editor Tim Padgett joined Sundial to discuss Petro, his running mate Francia Márquez and what role the diaspora in South Florida played in this election.

Find Padgett’s commentary on this story here.

Colombia’s first left-wing president
Gustavo Petro, presidential candidate for Colombia Humana, speaks to supporters in Bogota Sunday. Petro, a former leftist rebel and ex-Bogota mayor, came in second place behind former senator Ivan Duque in presidential elections.

The healing process in Surfside

Friday marks a year since the tragic Surfside condo collapse.

Champlain Towers South, the 12-story beachfront condo, unexpectedly crumbled in the early hours of the morning that day, killing 98 people.

Law enforcement, rescue teams and faith leaders were among the first to respond to the scene.

A year later, the site is starkly different. It’s an empty lot. The first responders and international rescue teams have left but faith leaders are still there, providing relief and guidance to the community.

“[It] reinforces again that every day has to be meaningful. Every day you go to sleep. You don't know if you're going to wake up tomorrow and it shouldn't get you depressed. It should get you [to say], you know what I got to make today meaningful,” Rabbi Yossi Harlig said on Sundial. He is a chaplain with the Miami-Dade County Police Department and director of the Chabad Center of Kendall and Pinecrest.

“We can’t understand God’s ways … Our faith in God doesn't mean I have to understand it. It is a painful thing. And that's why I'm there for them.”

People across South Florida, and the world, are remembering the community in the Town of Surfside this week.

For former WLRN intern and contributor Elisa Baena, the story is personal. She lives with her Grandma, Tati, in Surfside, six blocks away from the site of the tragedy.

She's been talking with survivors about their healing process a year later, for a new episode of Latino USA.

“In a lot of ways, this is a piece about memory and kind of the different forms and the different roles that memory has and trauma," Baena said. "And also, your relationship to a place in your home and displacement.”

“In terms of what people really need moving forward, I think, it's answers. Those of us who still live in Surfside. We need to know if this is a safe place for us to live. And we want to make sure that something like this never happens again.”
Elisa Baena, former WLRN intern and contributor

That program airs on WLRN Radio Friday at 8 p.m.

Baena joined Sundial to discuss the behind-the-scenes of what it took to make this piece.

The healing process in Surfside
People hug at a memorial for victims of the collapsed Champlain Towers South condo building on July 8 in Surfside, Fla.

Wildlife Thursday: Florida panthers

The Florida panther is one of the most beloved and most endangered species in our state.

It almost disappeared off the face of the earth not too long ago. Over the decades there have been all sorts of efforts to rebuild their populations.

“[Panthers] are doing a lot better than they were in the 80s and early 1990s. In that period of time down here in South Florida, we probably only had about 20 to 30 Panthers," Dr. Dave Onorato said on Sundial. "Today, we're at about 120 to 230 Panthers in South Florida. So a much better place than we were back in that time. ”

Onorato is a research scientist with the Florida Panther Project from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

That recovery has not been easy, considering they live in a small area that is being squeezed by more roads and more development.

“When it comes down to the panthers, I always say there's three things that are important for panthers and it's habitat, habitat and habitat. It all comes down to that [in] the end," Onorato said. "Genetics is something we need to always monitor as well. But really it’s maintaining enough wild spaces for the wildlife that all Floridians or most Floridians seem to really love is critical to help keeping Panthers around for the long term.”

Wildlife Thursday: Florida panthers
State game officials say a rebounding Florida panther population is behind a spike in attacks on livestock and domestic animals in Southwest Florida.

Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.
Caitie Muñoz, formerly Switalski, leads the WLRN Newsroom as Director of Daily News & Original Live Programming. Previously she reported on news and stories concerning quality of life in Broward County and its municipalities for WLRN News.