In Ireland and California, Friday was a day full of mourning and remembrance for the six young, Irish victims of the balcony collapse in Berkeley.
Olivia Burke, 21; Eoghan Culligan, 21; Lorcan Miller, 21; Niccolai Schuster, 21; Eimear Walsh, 21; and Irish-American Ashley Donohue, 22, were memorialized on both sides of the Atlantic.
Irish Minister for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan, who traveled to San Francisco on an Aer Lingus flight with many of the victims’ family members, laid a wreath at the memorial site that has grown just a few feet from the street in front of the Library Gardens apartment complex where the balcony collapsed.
“The six who are dead have become the children of Ireland. They have now become symbols of our country and the people have responded accordingly in so many different ways,” he told reporters.
“I have never seen such an outpouring of genuine sympathy and grief from the whole country for the families of the bereaved,” he said.
He also thanked the Irish Consulate in San Francisco, Consul General Philip Grant and the Irish community centers there for all their work in the preceding days.
Later on Friday, the Irish Times reported, Minister Deenihan met with some of the seven Irish students who were injured in the collapse, as well as their family members. The injured - Hannah Waters, Aoife Beary, Clodagh Cogley, Niall Murray, Sean Fahey, Jack Halpin & Conor Flynn, all aged between 20 and 22 – are still being treated in area hospitals.
In Dublin, a memorial service was held at University College Dublin, where three of the six victims were studying – Niccolai Schuster as a second-year politics and history major; Lorcan Miller and Eimear Walsh as medical students in their third years.
Ashley Donohoe, whose parents had emigrated from Ireland to California in 1989, was a fifth-year biology student at Sonoma State University. Olivia Burke was entering her fourth year at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, and Eoghan Culligan was studying supply chain management and logistics at the Dublin Institute of Technology.
Over 500 fellow students, faculty, family members and friends joined the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins and First Lady Sabina Higgins in UCD’s chapel, the Irish Times reported.
UCD’s college chaplain, Fr. Leon Ó Giolláin, spoke of the profound “sense of community, of communion,” that had connected people across the Atlantic. “All this tells us is that it really is love that makes the world go around,” he said.
Andrew Deeks, the president of UCD, concluded his remarks with a quote from James Joyce’s– especially apt as the tragedy took place on Bloomsday, normally a day of celebration in Dublin.
“They lived and laughed and loved and left,” he said, drawing from “Finnegan’s Wake.” “We will not forget them.”
Bringing them home to Ireland
The remains of Eoghan Culligan, Lorcan Miller, Nick Schuster and Eimear Walsh will be flown from San Francisco to Ireland, arriving early on Sunday morning.
A funeral service will be held today in Cotati, in California’s Sonoma County, for Olivia Burke and Ashley Donohoe, who were cousins. Donohoe will then be laid to rest in her hometown of Rhonet Park, California, and Burke will be repatriated home to Ireland.
Aer Lingus has asked that anyone traveling from San Francisco to Ireland on Saturday for non-emergency reasons consider switching their flight so that family and friends of the victims may travel together on the flight with the four bodies.
Fund for the victims’ family
The Irish Immigration Pastoral Center in San Francisco has established a fund for the students impacted by the tragedy as well as their families. In only three days, the GoFundMe campaign has raised over $180,000, comprised of 1,600 donations from around the world.
Separate, generous donations have also been provided by the Ireland Funds as well as other charitable and community groups.
Books of condolence
Many books of condolence are currently open for signing, for those who wish to express their grief and support for the victims, their friends and families. University College Dublin has an online Book of Condolence available, as does the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. Irish Consulates around the US have books of condolence available for signing, as do Irish community centers, including, in New York, the Aisling Irish in Yonkers, the two Emerald Isle Immigration Center offices in the Bronx and in Woodside, and in the New York Irish Center in Long Island City.
In Ireland, there is a book of condolence at Dublin’s Mansion House, Galway City Hall, Belfast City Hall, Cork City Hall and University College Cork. San Francisco is a sister city to Cork.
In addition to the memorial at UCD, hundreds of members from the Irish community in San Francisco held an all-night memorial vigil in Berkeley on Friday night.
Today, in Dublin, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin will hold a mass at the Pro Cathedral.
In New York, a service of remembrance for all those who lost their lives in the Berkeley tragedy will take place at St. Patrick's Cathedral, 5th Avenue on Thursday, June 25.
In Chicago, the Irish American Heritage Center will hold a mass on Sunday.