'Mom, we were invited... but we decided not to go'
A Galway student, who had been invited to the fatal Berkeley party, has written a poignant message in the aftermath of the death of his young friends about the meaning of happiness in life.
Bréanainn Drummond, who is living in the Library Gardens student apartment block on Kittredge Street, had been in vited to the 21st birthday but decided instead to go out for the night.
He returned to find the tragic scene unfolding outside his building.
The 22-year-old had begun making friends with his Irish neighbours when the fourth-floor balcony collapsed in the early hours of Tuesday morning.
One of the young men he had become friendly with didn't survive the fall.
Speaking about the experience, his mother, Kay Drummond, explained: "I don't know how he got asked but he said, 'Mom, we were invited to that but we decided to go out instead' because they were celebrating one of the other guys getting the exam results," she explained.
Bréanainn received his final results the following day and wrote a message to his friends on his social-networking site: "Yesterday gave me a different perspective of what really matters in life.
"Two days ago, I was awaiting my college results to see whether or not I had a degree. It seemed like the biggest concern I could ever think you could have. How wrong was I? My life did not change much yesterday, but many others did. This morning I received my results and got my degree and I am proud of that.
But he said: "It is not everything, only an achievement. We need to embrace every moment and not put so much pressure on ourselves to succeed but to do whatever makes you happy in life."
His mother, who signed the book of condolences at St Mary's Pro-Cathedral yesterday afternoon, said she feels her son is only coming to terms with the experience.
"I kind of get that feeling that he hasn't let it sink in yet. He probably doesn't want to upset me either.
"I was at work when I heard it on the news. He texted to tell me he was safe, but in all my panic, I didn't see it. And we were panicking to get him. I couldn't even go to the phone. I had to go to the toilet. my insides were gone, just like that," she says.
Mrs Drummond broke down as she reiterated the fact that his exam results "meant nothing to him really at the end of the day".
She says her son now doesn't know if he will stay in San Francisco or leave for the rest of the summer. "I wanted him to come home but you've got to let them live. It could happen in Ballyshannon, it could happen anywhere."
She said her son and his Irish housemates "are just lying low in the apartment now".
"They aren't fit to talk. They have to soak it up themselves," she said.
In his homily delivered at a special mass at the Pro-Cathedral yesterday, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin reminisced about his younger years as he spoke about the tragedy.
"I can remember myself as a young seminarian just turned 21 - long before the invention of J-1s - going to work for the summer in London and taking my first steps away from the security of family and the routine of seminary, proud of asserting a new sense of personal autonomy.
"It is the typical mark of growing up, of leaving adolescence, of seeking a sense of exploration, not just of new places to go to, but also of exploring of what is going on in my own heart," he said.
"The tragedy at Berkeley struck suddenly. It struck young people at a beautiful moment in their lives."