Berkeley tragedy remembered at UCD start-of-term event
Rose garden seats installed in honour of students who died during college years
UCD students and faculty members photographed in the college’s Garden of Rememberence where a moment’s silence was held for the students who died and were injured in Berkeley, California. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Members of the families of the three UCD students who died in the Berkeley tragedy were joined by hundreds of classmates and peers at Belfield on Wednesday for a start-of-term remembrance event.
UCD chaplain Fr John McNerney told the gathering that the resilience which he witnessed among those injured and bereaved in the wake of the tragedy showed that “the love lived between us as human persons is not ended at the moment of death.
“On the contrary it can be lived in a new way.”
The event, attended by more than 600 people, coincided with the opening of a contemplative space in the rose garden next to Belfield House.
Two seats have been installed, one in remembrance of the six students killed and seven seriously injured in Berkeley in the balcony collapse on June 16th last, and the other for all UCD students who have died while attending the college.
The university experiences an average of four such bereavements a year following illnesses or accidents.
Fr McNerney flew to Berkeley with some of the families after news broke of the tragedy. In the weeks that followed, he witnessed “the amazing power of self determination… even in the midst of impossible odds.
“There are many heroic stories to be told of these students being determined to live for each other, of trying to break the fall of the other. This is, as the Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas has called, the new kind of holiness: living the priority of the other, living for the other.”
Among those attending the event at the O’Reilly Hall were parents of the deceased, Graziella and John Schuster, and Ken and Sinead Miller; along with Robert Walsh, brother of Eimear Walsh, and a number of other family members and close friends.
The families were taken on a private visit to the rose garden after the event, which was also addressed by US Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley.
He said he had been asked many times before the tragedy and since why the US was so supportive of “this invasion of thousands of Irish students” each year under J-1 visa programme.
Among the many reasons he cited was that the students who came “are polite, they are gracious, they are respectful and they are wonderful ambassadors for a country that America holds so dear”.