Sunday 11 December 2016

The Yates anthology: Hard to imagine pain of losing child

Published 20/06/2015 | 02:30

A man holds his head during a memorial service for six Irish students at the Cathedral of Christ in Oakland, Calif
A man holds his head during a memorial service for six Irish students at the Cathedral of Christ in Oakland, Calif
'Dunphy’s exploits on the pitch with Man United, Millwall, Shamrock Rovers and Ireland (23 caps) were superseded by his journalism, broadcasting and books'

As the father of a J1 student currently in San Diego, my gut reaction to the Berkeley tragedy was it could have been any one of us that lost a child, as circumstances of 21st birthday parties are so common. The nation has been shocked, numbed, devastated, bereaved and remains grieving as the full horror emerges. Could it have been avoided?

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In Britain, they've changed the terminology relating to RTAs (road traffic accidents). Accidents are being re-classified as incidents, because they don't just happen, they're caused.

Either the balcony was never designed to contain so many people, or joists were damaged from defective waterproofing. Both scenarios suggest this catastrophe was inevitably waiting to happen, rather than random. Loss of a son or daughter is the most acute and chronic bereavement. Getting your newborn baby to infancy requires intensive love and care; years of education are joyful through nurturing; coping with moods and tantrums of teenage adolescence is eventually rewarded with blossoming young adults. It's at that moment, you must let go - waiting for the latch key to turn in the front door at 4 or 5 in the morning - not knowing what mischief, danger or self-harm they have wilfully encountered. They're now beyond your control. You know, they're wrong about their own limitless indestructibility. You can't put old heads on young shoulders.

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