Surfside condo collapse

‘She Was a Rock Star': Friends Mourn Cassondra Stratton, Victim of Surfside Collapse

In her 40 years of life, Cassondra Stratton made everyone around her feel special.

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If Cassondra Stratton had a second home, it was Reforming Pilates in Bay Harbor Islands, where she worked out nearly every day, sometimes taught the classes, and was beloved by everyone. 

“I feel that we are lucky to have an opportunity to be part of Cassandra’s life,” said instructor Marianela “Nelly” Triana. “She kept me alive, she kept me young.”

Stratton had the “it” factor -- gorgeous with a magnetic personality. 

“She made a big impact in her 40 years, she did everything that anybody could’ve ever hoped to have done,” said Justin Shanholtzer as he wiped away tears, saying Cassondra was “a rock star.”

He’s the owner of the Pilates studio. Shanholtzer channeled his grief into drawing angel wings on one wall. 

Wherever she went in her 40 years of life, people gravitated toward Cassondra, and she made everyone around her feel special. 

“Everybody that met her remembered her, she touched everybody that way, you know? Very special person,” Shanholtzer said. 

“She really left her mark, she was so vibrant, full of light, just a breath of fresh air,” said Shternie Mangami, a client at the studio who worked out often with Cassondra. 

Over the past six years, Nelly Triana grew especially close to Cassondra.

“We became really, really close and she started calling me her adopted mom, her adopted Cuban mom,“ Triana said. “I love Cassondra like the daughter I never had, and she loved me the same way.”

Cassondra’s husband, Mike Stratton, was out of town and on the phone with her just before calamity struck, as she described something terribly wrong. 

“That the building was shaking and the balcony was moving and that was the last time he heard from her,” Triana said, and then the line went dead. “I walked over there the next day, just to look at the building, and it was so sudden, it was so tragic, it was, but Cassandra lived an incredible life, she’s an amazing woman and she lived her life to the fullest.”

She shared much of her life with Triana. In fact, because Mike Stratton is often away on business, Nelly would sometimes spend nights at Cassondra’s apartment. And on the night of the collapse, Triana was supposed to be there.

She canceled the plan earlier that evening.

Now Triana and Cassondra’s friends want the world to know how much she will be missed, and what the world is missing. 

“She’s beautiful, she was a beautiful woman, she was stunning, and not only was she beautiful outside, she had an incredible heart and incredible soul and spirit, she had an incredible spirit, she was full of life and that’s how we want us here to remember her,” Triana said.

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