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Berkeley: Young, carefree lives are now changed forever

By Liam Kelly

Published 19/06/2015

Family and friends attend a memorial service at the Cathedral of Christ the Light for those who lost their lives in the Berkeley balcony collapse earlier this week
Family and friends attend a memorial service at the Cathedral of Christ the Light for those who lost their lives in the Berkeley balcony collapse earlier this week
Family and friends attend a memorial service at the Cathedral of Christ the Light for those who lost their lives in the Berkeley balcony collapse earlier this week

The physical suffering of the injured, the loss of friends, the emotional and mental trauma has been immense for the young adults whose lives changed for ever in the early hours of Tuesday.

They came here to San Francisco to work hard, play hard and revel in the freedom and craic that is virtually a cast-iron guarantee which comes with the receipt of a J1 visa.

Hundreds of young students from all over Ireland aged between 17 and 22 arrived over the last month and set to the business of finding a job, finding a place to stay, watching the budget, and getting on with being young, carefree and far away from parental guidance.

That's what it's about. That's the deal. Now, as the days wear on through this awful week, an unimaginable tragedy that left six dead, seven badly injured and a whole student community emotionally devastated has changed everything. They walk around in groups, they visit the shrine of flowers, tributes, messages and mementoes that keeps growing alongside the ill-fated Liberty Gardens.

Hundreds of them gathered in the Civic Peace Park near to the disaster site for a candlelight memorial.

This was their tribute, arranged by the students. Many have suffered serious emotional backlash and are being helped by the tremendous all-round effort of the Irish Consulate staff led by Consul-General Philip Grant, but also by the Irish Immigration Pastoral Centre, the city authorities, and the medical professionals.

Every assistance that can be provided for the families as they arrive from Ireland is being offered freely.

The tragedy is awesome, but the practicalities of dealing with death, the procedures and bureaucracy must also be tended to, as well as flight arrangements and, sadly, the reality of funeral arrangements that must be made at home to lay the deceased to their eternal rest.

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