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Sunday 11 December 2016

Berkeley tragedy: Familes remember injured at San Francisco mass

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A mass for the dead and injured was held in St Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco
A mass for the dead and injured was held in St Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco

ON Interstate 280, a poignant three-vehicle convoy made a journey to San Francisco International Airport.

Two were police vehicles, one an unmarked 4 x 4, and the third was the hearse bearing the remains of Dubliner Olivia Burke, the last of the students tragically killed to return home.

Olivia was remembered along with her cousin, Ashley Burke, in a Celebration of Life ceremony on Saturday in Sonoma County on Saturday.

As the small cortege made its way to the airport, a mass for the dead and injured was being held in St Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco.

None of the families of the six who died on Tuesday night in the Berkeley apartment tragedy were present, but families of the seven injured who remain in hospital were there to hear chief celebrant Archbishop Salvatore J Cordileone.

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Minister of Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan, Irish Ambassador to Washington Anne Anderson, Irish Consul-General to the Western USA Philip Grant, and his deputy Consul, Kevin Byrne, were also in attendance.

The Bay area's Irish community was well represented, and students and friends of the dead and injured also came to pray for those who suffered badly when the balcony outside apartment 405 of Liberty Gardens apartments in Berkeley collapsed at approximately 12.40am last Tuesday.

Mr Deenihan addressed the congregation at the end of the Mass and began by calling for prayers for the dead and for the speedy recovery of the injured - Clodagh Cogley, Aoife Beary, Niall Murray, Hannah Waters, Sean Fahey, Jack Halpin and Conor Flynn who are being treated in three hospitals near Berkeley.

He spoke of their parents and how they had looked after the needs of their children for the past 20 years and more, reminding us of the everyday, ordinary journey of family life in bringing up children and seeing them through "the challenging teenage years, and more recently, the young adult years.

"They looked forward to their graduating from college, getting a job, maybe some day having families themselves," he said.

He spoke of how he found it "heartbreaking" to witness the terrible loss the families have suffered, but that it was "inspiring" to see how they had rallied around each other, helping and comforting each other in a way that no one else could because it was only they who truly understood the depth of the loss.

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