More details on tragedy only add to poignancy
Published 18/06/2015 | 02:30
The young faces are beginning to become familiar as they emerge from the tragedy in Berkeley, along with their names, and the all-too-brief biographies.
As the individual details are filled in, the enormity of what was lost takes on added pathos. The scale of the injuries of those who survived, and the stories of the courage of some of those hurt in trying to come to their assistance, have also come into focus.
While flags flew at half-mast yesterday, and as the flowers and cards piled up at the scene of the tragedy on 2020 Kittredge Street, Berkeley, so too did the questions.
How could such a terrible thing occur in San Francisco, one of the most modern and wealthy cities in the world?
Fr Frank Herron, parish priest of Foxrock, where some of the victims lived, said the community was deeply shocked: "The tragedy is that they were heading out full of life and full of the joys of summer."
Yet the support and willingness to help has been touching. Americans have opened their hearts to the young victims and their families, and the reassurance from the US Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin O'Malley, that the parents of those injured should not have to worry about the cost of medical care was particularly welcome.
Our own Government has also pledged to give every practical help it can.
Three separate inquiries are already in train to ascertain the facts.
Inspectors will review compliance, maintenance, and standards, to establish the cause of the balcony collapse. They may take time, but so be it. This should not have happened and must never be allowed to happen again.
Tánaiste Joan Burton will have struck a chord with her observation that "words wash away like water" in such circumstances.
It is perhaps a poignant final testament to this exceptional group of gifted young people that they have brought so many together to mourn their loss.
The J1 trip to America always afforded young people a chance to form ties and build friendships in a way no other Government programme could.
But in Irish hearts, at least, it's hard to see how it can ever be quite so carefree again.
Time to get serious about chance of Grexit
Former US President Harry Truman believed that there wasn't a problem in the world that couldn't be solved if approached with the spirit of the 'Sermon on the Mount'. Mr Truman obviously wasn't familiar with Greece. The debt crisis has dominated world headlines and summits like few others, yet the situation deteriorates daily.
Now the country that literally provided Europe with the cornerstones of its civilisation is on the brink of ruin. The IMF has turned on its heels, and the EU has also exhausted its patience. But while there is still a chance to avoid a 'Grexit' and the economic havoc that it could potentially unleash, it must be taken.
The Greeks may be accused of being stubborn, but the hardship that the country is experiencing is real. Some may say they have visited much of it on themselves. Nonetheless, they are attempting to get back in line. Europe has a simple choice - it can walk away, or make one last attempt to reach an accommodation.
On Friday, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin. If Europe cannot find a solution, he undoubtedly will.
Greece's difficulty could be Russia's opportunity.