They were kept at the centre of the memorial service in the college church yesterday as staff stressed how much they were valued and how deeply their pain was shared.
Bairbre Redmond, dean of undergraduate studies at the university, said it was a privilege to teach the students and help prepare them for life.
“Please be aware of how much you are in our thoughts. Please ask us for help,” she said, reminding them of the counselling and support services that would be open to them all through the summer and when they return for the start of the new semester in September.
“If there is anything to be learned in the last few days, it is that life is very fragile and that we need to seize life’s opportunities and, above all, to care for one another,” said Prof Redmond, quoting the university’s founder, John Henry Newman, in encouraging the students to take strength from one another.
“He said that we are all individual links in a chain, a bond of connection between persons, and I know that you students are forming and strengthening those links and bonds around the world at the moment.
“Please continue to reach out to each other and to your families, to whom you are very precious. Together we will move forward, never forgetting those we have lost in the last few dark days.”
Messages of support were relayed to the family and friends of all six students who lost their lives, three of whom — Lorcan Miller, Eimear Walshe, and Niccolai Schuster — attended UCD.
Friends of the three said prayers and readings throughout the service and music was provided by scholars from the UCD Ad Astra Academy, cellist Eithne Nic an Riogh, soprano Emily Doyle, and pianist Killian Grumley Traynor.
It was a particularly poignant performance for Eithne, who lost two of her classmates, fellow medical students Eimear and Lorcan.
Addressing the hundreds of young people who attended and many more who were watching from abroad, UCD president Andrew Deeks said he was immensely proud of the way the students affected by the tragedy had responded in coming to terms with the loss of their friends.
“Their young lives, so tragically taken, have mobilised an incredible spirit of love and camaraderie among Irish people in communities across the globe,” he said.
Prof Deeks said the college had been celebrating one of the most famous students among its alumni when news of the tragedy broke.
He said June 16, dedicated to the memory of James Joyce, would now be remembered for another reason.
But he said it was appropriate to recall some of Joyce’s words in treasuring the memories of those lost. Quoting from Finnegans Wake, he said: “‘They lived and laughed and loved and left.’ They will not be forgotten.”
College chaplain Fr Leon Ó Giolláin said he had struggled to find words to offer comfort these past few days.
“What do you say to families, to friends, to students who are shocked, confused, in grief, and maybe even angry at the sudden and terrible loss and injury of these, our beloved young people?” he asked.
“No word of mine or anyone else will reach the depths of pain that felt by so many. Nevertheless there is one observation that we can make that has been so evident.
“When we are faced with appalling tragedy such as we have witnessed over these past days our common humanity bursts forth like spring in a desert place.
“We have all witnessed, in these past difficult days, an outpouring of love, sympathy, affection, and a deep, heartfelt solidarity and compassion for those who are suffering.
“All this tells us that it is really love that makes the world go round, that love is what most truly defines us as human beings, and that love indeed conquers all.”