Sunday 4 December 2016

Two tributes held for Berkeley tragedy students in California last night

Published 18/06/2015 | 11:52

Women hold candles during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Berkeley, California yesterday. Reuters/Elijah Nouvelage
Women hold candles during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Berkeley balcony collapse in Berkeley, California yesterday. Reuters/Elijah Nouvelage

TWO tributes were held for the dead and injured students in California last night.

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The first was a Mass in the Catholic Cathedral in Oakland, concelebrated by Bishop Michael Barber of the Oakland Archdiocese, and Fr Aidan McAleenan, and the second was a candlelight vigil in Dr Martin Luther King Civic Centre Park.

The latter event was organised by the students who publicised it only within their own ranks and an estimated 400 people, mostly students attended the vigil.

Prayers were said for the dead and injured with a local priest conducting the service while the candles burned brightly in the gathering gloom.

The dignity of the total silence, broken only by the sound of passing traffic and the prayers, reflected the depth of feeling among the student community and local people who also attended.

At the finish one girl moved forward into the wide circle to place two pictures of Niccolai Schuster on a park bench.

She was followed by another girl with a printed tribute to Lorcan Miller and after that students filed up to place their candles around the bench making it a shrine to their lost friends.

Everyone who attended last night was still struggling to come to terms with the scale of the tragedy.

Dave Martin, 22, from Blackrock in Dublin, remembered Lorcan Miller from St Andrews College and was briefly in the same college class as Olivia Burke.

“I was a year ahead of Lorcan. I wasn’t a direct friend of his, but friends of mine played hockey with him.

“He was a good hockey player, he did Model United Nations, was a very nice guy. Just your standard good guy. He never deserved anything like this,” he said.

Practically all of the focus has been on the six dead and seven with serious injuries but many students have been traumatised and need counselling.

The Irish Immigration Pastoral Centre has been to the fore in this regard, and Fr Brendan McBride from the Centre spent Fr Brendan McBride of the Irish Immigration Pastoral Centre spent the morning visiting survivors.

“It is a difficult, difficult situation. It’s one of the most difficult that I’ve ever encountered,” he said.

Throughout the day, people came to lay more wreaths, flowers, and little items such as a bottle of holy water at the Liberty Square apartments.

The accident site remained cordoned off and for hours a construction team worked to remove the second balcony on the block because city officials declared it unsafe and ordered it to be taken down.

Students and families preferred to be left to their grief without engaging with media.

Local people visiting to pay their respects expressed their solidarity with the Irish and particularly with the families of the dead and injured.

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