Monday 10 December 2018

Berkeley tragedy: Flame flickers as outpouring of grief continues

The six victims of the tragic Berkeley balcony collapse
The six victims of the tragic Berkeley balcony collapse

Declan Whooley in California

JUST a single candle flickers in the midst of the student shrine at Café Clem in downtown Berkeley.

 Among the photos, flowers and heartbreaking messages, one flame remains to remind those of the light that has gone out for six families following the tragic events on Kitteridge Street last week.

The urban chic venue is located on the corner of the fateful apartment building but has unwittingly become far more than simply a café as people of all ages from right around the globe pay their respects to the tragic incident which claimed the lives of six young students.

"You'd almost forget a cafe exists," one local admitted.

Read more: Hozier performs 'Work Song' at funeral mass of Berkeley victim Olivia Burke

Tricolours, framed photos and the many candles from the night vigil immediately capture the attention, but it is the messages of support which have reduced the majority of visitors to solemn reflection, sorrow and in many cases tears.

A local girl called Zoe, presumably no more than six or seven, has left a handmade card to the tragic students. In scrawled crayon, she says that although she didn't know them personally, is "very sad" nonetheless.

Poignantly the card is next to an American baseball cap which was left by those closest to Ashley Donohoe, who died along with her cousin Olivia Burke.

"Love you always, Mom, Dad and Amanda."

Expressions of disbelief and rueful shakes of the head accompany the steady stream of those that continue to arrive and pay their respects.

Read more: Berkeley victim Nicc Schuster is ‘at home in God’s house’

The reminders of the young lives so cruelly snatched away are scattered everywhere at the makeshift shrine.

From the framed photographs, to the personable posters, to the emotional letter from a member of the public who drove two students who attended the fateful party to hospital after the balcony collapse, it is easy to understand how the leafy suburb has been emotionally shattered by the experience.

Some of the pictures are flowers are already succumbing to the searing Californian heat. The posters, flags and cards will be removed, offering perhaps a crumb of comfort to the grieving families.

The candles too will soon be on borrowed time as Berkeley seeks to return to a semblance of normality. The flame will be quenched at a time when six families have been plunged into darkness.

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