“We all grieve together. We all grieve in our own way, at our own speed. We all have our good days and our bad days, but we have them together.”
Those were the words of US ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley, addressing the family and friends of Irish students who tragically lost their lives in Berkeley, California, this summer.
They were among a crowd of almost 600 people who gathered at O’Reilly Hall at University College Dublin (UCD) last night to attend a memorial ceremony for the deceased.
In attendance were members of the families of Niccolai Schuster, Eimear Walsh, and Lorcan Miller, who received bouquets of flowers and copies of a book of condolences opened for their loved ones and signed by tens of thousands of people.
The three students, along with Ashley Donohoe, Olivia Burke, and Eoghan Culligan, tragically lost their lives when the balcony they had been standing on gave way beneath them.
The students had been in the US on J1 visas and were attending a friend’s 21st birthday party when the incident occurred.
Seven others were injured in the fall; Jack Hapin, Seán Fahey, Conor Flynn, Niall Murray, Hannah Waters, Clodagh Cogley, and Aoife Beary, whose birthday the group had been celebrating.
UCD president Professor Andrew Deeks paid tribute to the injured as well as the deceased, who he described as “vibrant young people” who were taken too soon.
“We do not expect to lose those that are so young. We expect to help them in their education, to guide them on their path to adulthood and to nurture them to become global citizens with an ambition to make a difference in society. We are heartbroken at their passing,” he said, noting that this week will be particularly hard as friends of the deceased return to their studies at UCD without them.
“We of course know of no words of ours that would take away the pain of you losing your wonderful Niccolai, Lorcan, and Eimear but we want you to know that their lives will be remembered forever within the UCD community.”
In memory of those who lost their lives in the Berkeley balcony collapse, which, according to UCD chaplain Fr John McNerney who travelled to Berkeley in the days following the tragedy, “brought tears to our eyes and broke our hearts”, UCD has opened a walled rose garden on the grounds beside Belfield House and has installed a memorial bench to the victims within it.
The space, a tranquil setting in the heart of a busy campus, will be a place of contemplation, and will be open to anyone who wishes to visit.
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