UCD students remember Berkeley tragedy victims at special commemorative ceremony this evening
As students and staff of UCD began a new term, they remembered victims of the Berkeley tragedy who would not be returning to college this year.
O’Reilly Hall on the campus was full to capacity of friends and families of those who were killed and injured in the balcony collapse.
Half of students who died - Niccolai Schuster, Eimear Walsh and Lorcan Miller - had attended UCD.
Eimear and Lorcan were studying Medicine and Niccolai was a student of History and Politics at the university.
Three bound copies of the university’s online book of condolence, which had almost 20,000 signatures, were presented to each of their families who were in attendance.
Before the remembrance ceremony a commemorative bench was unveiled in the university’s Rose Garden.
“This garden is permanently open and you are most welcome to visit, contemplate and to remember your friends and your loved ones,” said UCD President, Professor Andrew Deeks.
Professor Deeks was at the Bloomsday honorary conferring in O’Reilly Hall when he first heard of the tragedy.
“When the news broke we saw a new social media phenomenon.
“We saw how our students reached out to one another through this medium so that they could gather together in groups to console, to support and comfort one another.
“The dignity demonstrated by the students who attended services and the shared protection and privacy and respect for the families has been seen and recognised globally.
“I cannot praise you all enough, thank you very much.
“The first week of the new semester we know will be difficult for many of you who must return to class without your friends”, said Professor Deeks.
“Without forgetting them, you all must move on with your own lives.”
Kevin O’Malley, the US Ambassador to Ireland, also spoke at the ceremony.
“Those six names, that date, we’ll remember and we’ll celebrate, the triumph that was and we also acknowledge the tragedy of what will never be,” said Mr O’Malley.
“We’re all gathered here this afternoon not as human beings for a spiritual experience, but as spiritual beings for a very human experience,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the student body was Marcus O’Halloran, President of UCD Students’ Union.
“I would like to emphasise the entire student body are here in solidarity with you all”, he said.
“Together we will take one step at a time and ensure that our lost friends who died and those that were injured are not forgotten.”
Fr John McNerney, Chaplain at UCD, recalled being in Oakland, California, where families were reunited with the bodies of their loved ones.
“I remember quite clearly that evening how some of those students were severely injured and had to remain in hospital and had to Facetime with their friends who died to say their final goodbye.
“It brought tears to our eyes and broke our hearts.”
Support services are in place for students who need assistance in coping with the events.
“Right from the start as soon as we heard of this tragedy in June, we’ve been heavily involved with our students,” Patrick Murray, Dean of Medicine, told the Irish Independent.
“We’ve lost their classmates but also with the university community more broadly we’ve been responding to this from the start, including planning for this event.
“It is intended for two purposes, one is to commemorate the students who were lost and injured, and the other is to continually support students and their families.
“I met with the returning fourth year class of medical students who were Eimear and Lorcan’s classmates, on their first day back, along with a number of staff and spent some time with them.
“We talked about dealing with loss and we also had the student counsellors, the professionals, who deal with those who need additional help and talk to the students.
“We thought it was important to do it because coming back to class without their classmates was likely to stir up difficulties in dealing with loss.
“I’m glad we did that, and I think the students found it very valuable.”
Music was provided by the university’s School of Music.
Six students were killed and seven were injured as a result of the balcony collapse in June.
Independent testing is due to be carried out later this month into the cause of the accident.
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