Martin Langesfeld remembers exactly where he was and what he was doing in the early hours of June 24, 2021.
"I was out with friends around 1:20 a.m.," Langesfeld said in an interview with ABC News' Victor Oquendo. "I was having fun. I was laughing. Little did I know, while I was laughing, my sister's building was no longer there."
Langesfeld's sister was one of the 98 people who perished when Champlain Towers South, along South Florida's famous Atlantic coast, collapsed into a tangle of glass, concrete and steel.
Nicole Langesfeld was at home with her new husband, Luis Sadovnic, when disaster struck. Martin Langesfeld says he carries the pain with him every day.
"She would shine a light to any room," Martin Langesfeld told ABC News as the anniversary of the collapse approached. "Just no matter how stressed she was, how hard her week was, her month was, she was always happy and ready to laugh."
'A beautiful place to live'
Alfredo Lopez grew up in New York, but when his job relocated to South Florida, he found himself living with his family on the sixth floor of Champlain Towers South for what he initially figured would be a brief stay.
"We never thought that we were going to be staying there for the amount that we were there, but we just loved it from Day One," Lopez told ABC News' Oquendo. "It was just a beautiful place to live."
Just north of the Miami Beach city limits, at 8777 Collins Avenue, Champlain Towers South was one of dozens of residential buildings perched between the street and the Atlantic Ocean. The building opened in 1981 and was home to residents like Lopez who were attracted to a quiet beachside life in a small community.
"Our apartment was on the northwest corner of the building, so we had a view facing west," Lopez said. "Our sunsets were spectacular."
Raysa Rodriguez, who came to the United States with her family from Cuba when she was three years old, also made her home at Champlain Towers South.
"I would say to myself how blessed I was to have this million-dollar view," Rodriguez told Oquendo. She got to know so many residents on the 13-story building that some even referred to her as the "mayor" of the complex.
"I had a lot of friends there, a lot of good friends that died that night," Rodriguez said. "I'm just totally devastated. People don't understand what kind of community we had there."
Rabbi Eliot Pearlson of Temple Menorah in Miami Beach did not live at Champlain Towers South, but felt like he could have been a resident given how many members of his synagogue lived there -- and how many times he visited there over 22 years.
"I named babies in the social hall. We had ... circumcisions and all types of celebrations, 50th anniversary parties in that building," Pearlson told Oquendo. "We knew the building very, very well."
And then in just 12 seconds, during the dark humid hours before sunrise on June 24, about half of the structure was gone.
"I fulfilled the American dream that many people come to this country to pursue, and I lost it in minutes." Rodriguez said.
'I was so scared'
Roughly a mile away from the Champlain towers, Police Officer Alain Arzola was working his overnight shift in Indian Creek Village when he heard emergency calls for assistance in neighboring Surfside. A building had partially collapsed.
"I remember seeing a cloud of dust through the bay and I was like, 'Oh, this is serious,'" Arzola told ABC News' Oquendo in his first interview since the tragedy. "I went back in the station. I remember grabbing a dust mask."
Arzola said he drove toward Champlain Towers South, not yet realizing the extent of the calamity that had just occurred.
Lopez and Rodriguez knew right away that some sort of serious incident had just taken place.
"I remember hearing a loud explosion, like a bomb going off," Lopez said. "When I opened my curtain, all I saw was dense white powder."
"When I saw that powder I thought, 'Something really bad is going on,'" he said. "It never registered with me that we lost the north side of our building."
Lopez said he quickly determined that he needed to try to get out of the building with his wife and son as soon as possible. They tried to escape through the lobby, but the door was blocked. Eventually, while carrying 88-year-old neighbor Esther Gorfinkel on his shoulder, Lopez, with his wife and son, made his way to the parking garage, climbing over cars and sloshing through ankle-deep water before reaching the ground level through the pool deck.
"I walked out with some beat-up shorts and a T-shirt and sandals," Lopez said. "It didn't occur to me to pick anything up. I was so scared."
While survivors of the collapse were trying to flee the crumbling building, first responders from across South Florida descended on the site. Arzola said he was one of the first out-of-town police officers to arrive, finding a scene of fear that the rest of the structure would come crashing down.
"That night it was an east wind, and with all the debris and the glass, you could feel it hitting you," Arzola said. "You could even smell a funky smell."
A man approached Arzola and other emergency personnel to inform them that someone was trapped in the rubble. Arzola said that he soon located the individual, who was later identified as 15-year-old Champlain Towers South resident Jonah Handler.
"I saw a hand waving," Arzola said. "Right away, you know, I'm saying to myself, 'Oh, there's a survivor. Like, there's somebody alive. Let me go in and help him.'"
Arzola said he approached Handler, but the teenager was stuck with his mother by his side and was unable to make it out of the rubble on his own. The officer described talking with Handler, soothing him, trying to keep him calm and alert while debris flew and the remaining pieces of Champlain Towers South seemed to teeter above.
"The building could have fallen," Arzola said. "But I have a job, and my job is I'm a first responder and I'm there to help get him out. I wasn't going to leave him alone."
Handler was ultimately rescued by firefighters, but his mother and 97 other people would not survive.
"Oh, I don't want to leave. I want to wait for my mother," Arzola remembered Handler saying.
Police officers, firefighters, and EMTs were not the only ones to rush to the site of the collapse. Local religious leaders like Pearlson also made their way to 8777 Collins Avenue, hoping to check on the safety of their congregants.
"You couldn't believe it was real. The emergency response people were very organized, but still, it was havoc," Pearlson said. "There was still the smell of concrete. You could smell it. I kind of think of visuals from Beirut or from tragedies in Iraq or from Israel. It was tragic."
Five members of the Temple Menorah community lost their lives on June 24, according to Pearlson.
"There'll be Passover seders without parents," he said. "There'll be weddings without children."
'I miss everything about that place'
Twelve months after Champlain Towers South disappeared into a pile of debris, survivors and the friends and relatives of the victims say they're frustrated by the unanswered questions about the collapse.
"It just seems that everyone is trying to pass this very silently and not make a big deal out of it, but we need to realize that a building collapsed and people died in their own homes," Martin Langesfeld said.
"Whenever there's a tragedy, we have the option to mourn and then do nothing, or mourn and make the world a better place," Pearlson said.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology has yet to draw official conclusions about what might have caused the collapse. Federal investigator Glenn Bell stated during a meeting on June 9 that "about two dozen hypotheses" are being "actively considered," but no "clear initiating event" has been determined.
"Everyone wants to place blame and I think in the Jewish community, at least in our Jewish community, we don't want to place blame. We want to heal," Pearlson said. "Placing blame is not really going to help anyone, unless we do so to make sure that it doesn't occur again"
On Thursday, one day before the one-year anniversary of the collapse, a judge approved a settlement worth over $1 billion. The funds, according to lawyers negotiating the deal, would come from dozens of different sources, with the largest portion -- $515 million -- coming from the former security firm for Champlain Towers South. Another $400 million or so would be paid by insurers for the developers of a condo project next door. None of the parties have admitted to any wrongdoing.
A $120 million sale of the property to a billionaire developer from Dubai, which is expected to close by the end of July, would also contribute to the total settlement.
A total of $96 million would be provided to those who owned condos at Champlain Towers South as compensation for their loss of property.
"We don't care how much money comes in without knowing the actual cause of the collapse, because it could happen again," Martin Langesfeld said. "This investigation cannot be stopped and people can't look the other way just because $1 billion came."
There have also been disputes between some families of the victims and those who survived the tragedy over matters such as the settlement, the possible causes of the collapse and plans for a memorial at the site.
"We are being treated as not victims, but we are being treated as [if] we were responsible for the deaths of these 98 people, which is the most absurd thing that you could ever imagine," Lopez said. "We felt like we were never treated as surviving victims, and that's what we are. We were surviving victims. We had no idea that the building was in bad shape."
During a memorial planning committee meeting in Surfside in April, two relatives of those who died in the collapse testified that they did not want survivors to be present at the memorial service that will take place one year to the minute following the tragedy.
Yadira Santos, a former Champlain Towers South resident who survived the collapse, subsequently addressed the committee and called for unity.
"I am heartbroken for the lives that were lost ... but I think it's time for us to unite instead of being families of the deceased versus survivors," Santos said. "It's all of us together."
Both survivors and family members of the victims agree their lives are forever changed. Some, like Lopez, no longer reside in the town of Surfside due to their inability to afford oceanfront housing after losing their home.
"I miss the beach, I miss my friends, I miss my neighbors," Lopez said. "I miss everything about that place."
Funds from the proposed settlement could reach survivors and victims' families later this year. But some say the money is secondary.
"You can personally offer my family $100 billion and we would give everything back to hug my sister just one time," Martin Langesfeld said.
ABC News' Laura Romero, Josh Margolin, Jenny Wagnon Courts and Rachel DeLima contributed to this report.