PRESIDENT Joe Biden attempted to strike a tone of optimism as he toured the site of the devastating Miami condo collapse on Thursday.
Speaking during a briefing in Surfside, the president said he has managed to find something "good" in the Champlain Towers South tragedy that has killed at least 18 people and left 145 others missing.
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“You know what’s good about this?” Biden said, sat next to GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democratic Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
"It lets the nation know we can cooperate and when it’s really important.”
Biden added: “I just got back from 12 days in Europe. You wonder whether we can do this. And you’re doing it."
Biden's remarks came as attempted to praise DeSantis and Cava for coming together in a time of tragedy to lead Surfside through the aftermath of the tragic collapse, despite their differences in political beliefs.
“This is life and death,” Biden continued. "We can do it, just the simple act of everyone doing what needs to be done, makes a difference.”
In another display of bipartisan unity, DeSantis, who is said to be weighing a presidential run in 2024, thanked Biden for his unwavering support.
"You recognized the severity of this tragedy from day one, and you've been very supportive," he told the president.
The governor went on to assess that cooperation between local, state, and federal partners seeking to manage the fallout from the building collapse “has been great."
He then told Biden: "You guys have not only been supportive at the federal level, but we’ve had no bureaucracy."
In response, Biden assured: "I promise you, there will be none."
As Biden pledged federal help and touted the bipartisan nature of the response, he touched DeSantis’ hand to underscore the point.
Elsewhere during the meeting, Biden pledged to pick up 100% of the cost” of the search and cleanup and urged the local officials to turn to Washington for assistance.
“You all know it, because a lot of you have been through it as well,” Biden said.
“There’s gonna be a lot of pain and anxiety and suffering and even the need for psychological help in the days and months that follow. And so, we’re not going anywhere.”
"Whatever you need pick up the phone – for real," Biden added. "I’m not joking about it.”
Later Thursday, Biden met with first responders who have been working tirelessly to hunt for survivors among the rubble in the seven days since the condo collapsed.
“I just wanted to come down and say thanks,” Biden told a group of uniformed personnel. “What you’re doing now is hard as hell.”
He also recalled how he experienced the “incredible” work of first responders first-hand, highlighting how firefighters used the jaws of life to save his two sons from a deadly car wreck that killed his first wife and daughter in the 1970s.
He also recounted how he was rushed to the hospital in 1988 having suffered a life-threatening brain aneurysm.
“You saved my life,” Biden told the group. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you."
“No one fully appreciates what you do. But I promise you we know. We know. What you are dealing with here is incredible, having to deal with the uncertainty.”
The president later met privately for several hours with family members of those affected by the collapse before he's due to deliver remarks ahead of his departure on Air Force One.
A visit to the collapse site was uncertain, however, amid concerns about the stability of the debris which has halted search and rescue efforts for the foreseeable future.
White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden aimed to “offer up comfort and show unity” with his visit to the site.
Biden has supported an investigation into the cause of the collapse, and on Wednesday the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which sent a team of scientists and engineers to the site, launched an investigation.
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