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Sunday 4 December 2016

'It hit us like a tsunami' ... community unites for vigil

Denice Hurlebaus with daughter Kathleen Hurlebaus both from Wisconsin signing a book of Condolence at St. Patricks Cathedral, Dublin in memory of the 6 Irish students who died following a balcony collapsing in San Francisco, California. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Denice Hurlebaus with daughter Kathleen Hurlebaus both from Wisconsin signing a book of Condolence at St. Patricks Cathedral, Dublin in memory of the 6 Irish students who died following a balcony collapsing in San Francisco, California. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
17/06/15 A woman and her child pray for the victims after signing the Book of Condolences which was opened for the victims of the California balcony collapse at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Church, Foxrock this afternoon...Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.

Relatives, friends, colleagues and fellow students of the young men and women who tragically lost their lives gathered at two ceremonies last night to pray for the victims and those still in hospital.

A mass was held in St Mary’s College, Rathmines for former students  Eoghan Culligan and Nick Schuster.

The secondary school gym was packed and all there prayed for the 13 who fell from the apartment balcony.

Fr Michael Duggan led the service and said that this wasn’t the way it was supposed to work.

“The natural order of life says that children should be the ones burying their parents. “Now we’re faced with parents having to bury their children,” he said.

Foxrock1.jpg
A woman and her child pray for the victims after signing the Book of Condolences which was opened for the victims of the California balcony collapse at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Church, Foxrock

The mass was soon over, and the choir, having completed a rendition of Hallelujah, had stopped singing – but nobody moved, everybody still in shock at the tragic death of their friends.

There was a constant stream of people to Foxrock parish church and Loretto College yesterday.

Two of the students from the south Dublin area, Eimear Walsh and Olivia Burke (both 21), died while another young woman from the parish, Aoife Beary, is in hospital.

Local Parish curate Fr Frank Herron described the devastating impact the tragedy has had on the local community.

“It hit us like a tsunami. The instant loss of such innocent lives, it’s incomprehensible.

“The community has really come together to support one another during this time,” Fr Herron said.

What was a scene of  joyful graduation celebration just weeks ago was last night the setting for heartbreak as hundreds gathered in Loretto College.

Up to 800 mourners flocked to the school assembly hall. Speaking at the heart-wrenching service Fr Herron remembered the graduation service he had celebrated just weeks earlier.

“That was a happy occasion,” he said. “We were all here together in this very same room. We were surrounded with joy, laughter and music.

“Today there will be none, but one thing remains the same, and that is that we are here together.”

Fr Herron reminded those gathered that the past two days have been extremely difficult for all involved but reminded them that there were more tough days ahead.

“It is going to be difficult, but we can get through this together in the wake of this tragedy. That is what this is: an accident and a tragedy.

“Nobody is to blame, accidents happen. We will move through this,” he said.

Young men and women comforted one another during the day as they remembered the deceased at the church, while candles were lit for those still battling for their lives in hospital.

Among those paying tribute was Dublin GAA star Jack McCaffrey, who was on the same college course as Eimear Walsh in UCD.

Also studying medicine at the Dublin college was 21-year-old Lorcan Miller, who also died.

His secondary school paid tribute to him yesterday, describing him as “one of their brightest students”.

Several vigils will also be held across the United States, including San Diego and Chicago.

Fr Herron described how when the news of the deaths broke, the parish decided to open the church doors “in case anyone wished to find solace” .

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