Vigil held in Foxrock in memory of Berkeley victims

People of all ages gather at church to remember six students

Members of the Foxrock community gathered at the local church throughout the night for an impromptu vigil dedicated to the memory of the six young people who died yesterday while on a J1 visa in California.

News that a number of students from the area were among the half-dozen who sustained fatal injuries after the fourth floor balcony on which there were standing collapsed while at a party in Berkeley was met with anguish, and the car park of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour which would normally be deserted late at night was a hive of activity beyond 10pm as friends, family members and strangers came to pay their respects following the tragedy.

Organised by parishioners, the all-night vigil was designed to give people the opportunity to remember all of the lives lost in the tragedy. In front of the altar, dozens of candlelights flickered as countless prayers were uttered to a backdrop of gently-playing piano and choral music.

The crowd was drawn from almost every age group with young and old equally represented, united in their mourning. Many people were visibly distraught and few present wished to reveal their names out of respect for the families and loved ones of those who were killed.

“I went to school with a brother of one of the girls who died so I would’ve known her for years, being up to the house and up here and around school. I do some work here in the church, and when I arrived here at 8pm today one of the chaps here let me know, so I was obviously shocked,” said one young man, as he paused for reflection outside the gently-filling chapel.

“I was up at the house of one of the girls there, and I think they only got confirmation of it relatively late in the day at about 5 o’clock so it’s just fresh. It’s devastating, it’s all you can say.

“I know her whole family, they’re just very bright, down to earth, incredibly sensible, genuinely lovely people, and you can’t imagine how someone like that can’t be around,” he added, before returning to help with the service.

For others in attendance, the thought of such pain being inflicted on the entire community- even those with the most fleeting of associations with the individuals involved in yesterday’s incident- encouraged them to come out and share their condolences.

“I heard it on the radio and television at noon… and I’ve been listening to every news bulletin after that,” said local resident Sean McGowan.

“It is a shock. There was one lady who had been in our house from 8.30pm with my wife and she was very, very upset, and I saw her there at it [THE VIGIL].”

“One of our daughters was the year behind, and our son was a year ahead in school,” said a couple exiting the church at around 11.45pm.

“We were here to grieve with our four children. Our children have all got faith and to sit in the church there tonight with the community and to be able to grieve, I think that’s just the most beautiful, heart-warming thing.

"It's a tragedy for Ireland, but for Foxrock in particular. Our prayers and our hearts are just with them. How can anybody describe what they're going through, we don't know. Our blessings just go out to them."

Last night, UCD student union president Marcus O'Halloran also posted a tribute on the organisation's Facebook page to the victims of the balcony collapse following confirmation that at least two of the deceased attended the south Dublin university.