Berkeley tragedy: ‘Grief and sympathy and love of all the Irish’

A few moments of their time and a few words from the heart were all anyone who signed books of condolence for the victims of the Berkeley tragedy had to give, but they gave it with the deep wish that it somehow could be more.

Berkeley tragedy: ‘Grief and sympathy and love of all the Irish’

President Michael D Higgins was the first person to sign at the Mansion House in Dublin yesterday, emerging solemnly to speak of the dreadful loss of six young people “in the spring of new life”.

His wife Sabina lent her support, signing “with great grief and sympathy and love of all the Irish and people everywhere”.

For some members of the public, the visit was very personal.

Members of the public queue to sign the book of condolences for the

victims of the Berkeley tragedy at the Mansion House, Dublin.

One woman spoke with tears of her friendship with the family of Niccolai Schuster.

“It’s three generations of friendship,” she said. “I know Nick’s grandmother, my daughter knows his mother, and my grandaughter is friends with his brother.

“You feel such profound sorrow for these people and all they are going through. Those young people were so full of promise and then suddenly they’re gone.”

Others were drawn by the universal bond that comes with being a parent.

Students and friends of Eoghan Culligan sign a book of condolences

for the victims of the Berkeley tragedy at DIT, Aungier Street.

“Our heartfelt sympathies go out to those families. I have one son in Dubai and one in Madrid, both teaching, and you do worry,” said Anne Hennessy, from Aherlow, Co Tipperary.

“I’ve had cold calls from supposed IT companies with a foreign voice telling me there’s a problem with my computer and as soon as they come on the phone with the strange accent, my heart would drop to my boots thinking something’s happened to one of my boys.”

Paul Anderson, from Bray, Co Wicklow, came to sign the book of condolence accompanied by his wife Carrie and their grandchildren, 15-year-old twins Hannah and Dylan.

President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina sign the book of

condolences at the Mansion House, Dublin.

“It’s so sad. Those young people went over with the best of intentions and high spirits, looking forward to the summer and the rest of their lives,” Mr Anderson said.

READ MORE: Berkeley: Let students express their loss and grief their way.

“We didn’t have the money to travel when we were their age but it’s a great thing to get out and see the world and how other people look at life. To have that all cut short, it’s unbelievable.”

Those who queued to sign were also thinking of the injured students.

“The young people who died are in heaven but the others who are injured have to live with that forever and that will be very hard on them,” said Susan Dempsey, who signed the book of condolence on behalf of all the mothers and grandmothers of the Magenta Ladies Club in Santry, Dublin.

Some came not just to sympathise but to speak up for the students and their peers in the wake of a much-criticised article that accompanied the New York Times’ coverage of the tragedy, which accused Irish students on J1 visas of excessive partying and destruction of property.

DIT students present floral tributes for Eoghan Culligan , who died in

the Berkeley tragedy, at a service at the Aungier Street campus.

“I am the parent of two students, I work in Trinity College, and last year my second born was in California for the summer. He is not a hooligan. Our students are not hooligans,” said Breda Walsh, from Dublin.

“They are incredible people and we are lucky to have them because they are future of our nation. To see them slagged off in front of the whole world makes me very, very angry.”

Three friends from Sligo who have been on J1s in California in recent years said they were also appalled at the newspaper’s insensitivity.

“It’s a tragedy that’s affected all of us,” said one person who asked not to be named.

“You remember what the summer was supposed to be — the good times, the optimism. We’ve all been on J1s. We’ve all gone to parties. It could have been any one of us.”

READ MORE: Berkeley: Let students express their loss and grief their way.

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