Grandmothers of Lorcan Miller: 'The support from everybody around the country has been unimaginable'
The grandmothers of Lorcán Miller - one of six students who died after a balcony collapsed in Berkeley on Tuesday - have thanked the people of Ireland for the love and support they have shown their families.
Lorcán and five friends - Olivia Burke, Eoghan Culligan, Niccolai Schuster, Ashley Donohoe and Eimear Walsh - died after their fourth storey balcony collapsed in an apartment complex in Kittredge Street, Berkeley, Calfornia.
Today, his two grandmothers were among the hundreds of people who attended a special memorial service in UCD, the Dublin university attended by Lorcan, Niccolai and Eimear.
The service was also attended by President Miichael D Higgins and Sabine.
Speaking after the service, Lorcán's maternal grandmother Maura said the service and support has helped them "enormously" as they grieve for their beloved grandson.
"We are just absolutely devastated by the tragedy of his death," Maura said in an interview with RTE Radio One programme 'Drivetime'.
"The service here with the students and the college staff was wonderful and very touching and it really helped us enormously.
"We have a very rough week ahead of us and my daughter will be bringing home her beautiful son and our beautiful grandson and we need an awful lot of strength and courage to go on.
"And the support from everybody around the country and South Dublin has been unimaginable," she said.
Describing the tragedy as "the worst nightmare that any family can face", she said; "we will just have to have great courage and go on".
Continuing, she described her cherished grandson as an "extraordinary young man".
"I think I used to talk about him too much and people [would] say 'oh doting grandmother'.
"But I'm now vindicated.... by all the wonderful things said about him. But being a doting granny - at least what I said was true,"she said.
Lorcán's paternal grandmother Ruth Miller told the RTE programme that her family are experiencing a "carpet of support" as they come to terms with their great loss.
In the moving interview, Ruth said the outpouring of support from people all over the country shows "the real Ireland is back".
"I tell you something just because Lorcán was such a special person... and Ken and Sinead his parents, I don't know, we are just having this carpet of support. It's just amazing. It's like the old Ireland has .... I think the Celtic Tiger has gone and the real Ireland is back. I can't describe the kindness.
"You know we have our bad moments. Yesterday, when Ken and Sinead [Lorcán's parents] and when members of other families were going out on the aeroplane, your heart broke because they were leaving Ireland but we've heard this morning they have tremendous support there and that makes us happy because they are actually being looked after."
According to Ms Miller, the grieving parents will see their "loved ones" for the first time tomorrow.
"Tomorrow will actually be the difficult day because it's not until tomorrow the bodies are being released and they'll see their loved ones and whoever is listening to this, it's just keep the love going because that's what's keeping us going."
Ms Miller said her grandson would have loved the music as the memorial service today and he would "have been in his element".
"I was crying at the service today because the music was so so beautiful - and Lorcán, he would have been in his element. He just loved music you Because we're from a musical family. I just actually felt Lorcan was there you know. I'm just smiling today because it's just because has everything has been so beautiful."
Ms Miller also said she would to remember Eimear Walsh, who was a good friend of her grandson and who also lost her life in the tragedy.
President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina were among the hundreds who joined staff, students, friends and family, including the father and brother of Niccolai and the grandparents and uncle of Lorcán.
In his homily, college chaplain Fr. Leon Ó’Giolláin paid tribute to the huge amount of support which flowed in from the Irish communities both at home and abroad.
“Our common humanity burst forth like a spring in a desert place,” he said, “the sense of community, of communion, has been profound.”
UCD President Andrew Deeks recalled how the dreadful news had broken on the campus on Bloomsday while a conferral ceremony was underway.
“Our routine was shattered by the news of the terrible tragedy. We’ve lost six wonderful young people and the lives of a generation of students were completely changed,” he said. “Those of us who have dedicated our lives to the education of the next generation expect to nurture them, to watch them as they grow into global citizens.”