Monday 23 January 2017

Berkeley disaster anniversary: Shrine to students recalls tragedy a year on

Amy Finn

Published 16/06/2016 | 02:30

The shrine on Kittredge Street dedicated to the memory of the six students who died on June 16 a year ago
The shrine on Kittredge Street dedicated to the memory of the six students who died on June 16 a year ago

This time last year it was a scene of horror, tragedy and ultimately loss.

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Now, 12 months on, the stark reminder of the loss of six young lives - including five Irish J1 students - is a small shrine on Berkeley's Ketteridge Street.

Tucked into a window frame, a small wooden bench holds six candleholders adorned with the faces of the six victims along with flowers and messages. Two photo frames are placed above, one with an image of those who died, the other listing the names of the survivors.

Read more: Berkeley: One Year On - 'People came from Ireland with just clothes on their backs because they left so quickly' - Irish priest offered support to victims' parents

Read more: Berkeley: One Year On - 'It's the worst thing I've dealt with in 30 years on the job' -  emergency responder remembers tragic balcony collapse

No trace remains of the balcony or the French doors at apartment 405 or the apartment below.

New windows have been put in their place and the gaps plastered and painted.

However, for local people, the trauma of the event is still fresh in their memory.

Diana Lion, a teacher and a former resident of Berkeley, now living in nearby Oakland, said it had cast a dark cloud over the community.

"I was completely stunned and shocked by this tragedy.

Enormity

"It actually hurt my heart because there are so many students that come to Berkeley, and they come for a good educational experience, and this is the furthest thing from that. I remember I came here to go to the library a few months after it happened, and I passed by the shrine to the memory of the students, it was very moving.

"I was talking to a friend on the phone at the time and I told her 'I have to call you back'. I needed to stand there and be in silence to honour the enormity of what had happened.

"It was just awful. I'm horrified that the owners of the building would not have the building up to code.

"It really is a stain on the reputation of Berkeley."

Meanwhile the US Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O'Malley, held a remembrance ceremony for the six students at the embassy in Dublin yesterday at which an apple tree was planted and a memorial plaque unveiled.

"As the tree grows, we will take comfort in the knowledge that the memory of Ashley, Eimear, Eoghan, Lorcán, Niccolai and Olivia will remain with us always," he said. He extended the heartfelt sympathies of the American people to the victims' families.

Irish Independent

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