Tuesday evening officials announced that Hilda Noriega, the mother of Police Chief Carlos Noriega, was another victim of the horrific Surfside building collapse last week. She was 92.
Hilda Noriega moved to the United States from Cuba in 1960, retiring to Surfside, Florida, where she would reside in the Champlain Towers South building. When the death toll rose to five on Saturday, hope was diminishing for everyone. But when cherished keepsakes belonging to Hilda Noriega were found in the rubble following the collapse of the Champlain Towers South condominiums, the Noriega family thought she could perhaps be saved.
The Noriega matriarch lived in unit 602 where she resided for more than 20 years. But after losing her husband six years ago, Hilda was ready to leave the Champlain Towers. Unit 602 had been put up for sale so that she could move in with relatives.
Her grandson, Mike Noriega, 36, said he stumbled across an old photo of his missing grandmother, Hilda Noriega, 92, among the debris. There was also a birthday card in the rubble that Hilda’s friends from prayer group sent her two weeks earlier with the acronym “ESM,” Spanish for “hand-delivered,” scrawled across the yellow envelope with a butterfly etching.
“Some miracles are very big, others are small,” Mike said.
Mike Noriega said his grandmother was a sweet, loving woman who was dedicated to raising her family when she moved to the United States after coming over from Cuba.
“The Noreigas have lost the ‘heart and soul’ and ‘matriarch’ of their family, but will get through this time by embracing the unconditional love Hilda was known for,” the family said in a statement sent through North Bay Village government.
The statement was also posted on Twitter by the city and read, “the Noriega family was notified last evening of the recovery and positive identification of his mother from the Champlain Towers South catastrophic scene.”
The whole statement can be found on the North Bay Village Facebook page and reads:
“It is with great sadness that we announce the tragic passing of Hilda Noriega, the mother of Police Chief Carlos Noriega. The Noriega family was notified last evening of the recovery and positive identification of his mother from the Champlain Towers South catastrophic scene.”
“The family would like to thank all the hundreds of first responders, who bravely and selflessly risked their lives to locate his mother and other innocent victims found to date,” the statement continued. “The family would also like to thank Governor DeSantis, Mayor Levine-Cava, Senator Rubio, Senator Pizzo, Senator Book, and all the other elected officials and administrators, who showed unprecedented leadership, courage and compassion during this extremely difficult time.”
“The Noriegas have lost the ‘heart and soul’ and ‘matriarch’ of their family, but will get through this time by embracing the unconditional love Hilda was known for,” the statement concluded. “The family has asked for privacy as they deal with this horrific and painful loss.”