It’s rare that I get to post anything that is located close to me in this blog. Being so far away from what I usually write about means that while I’ve visited most of the places I feature, they are quite far away by the time I get to write about them. This one is close to home in many ways, and I am saddened to write about it at all. You see, I live very close to Berkeley, California, and I worked there for years so the recent tragedy there is very close to my heart.

I used to help manage a retail store in Berkeley and every summer without fail we would get CVs and applications from young Irishwomen looking for a temporary job while they were in the area. I never got to hire any, since we were very specialized and they would only be in country long enough to pass the training period – but it was always a joy to meet them – and sometimes have the time to catch up on news of their home. They were always bright-eyed and thrilled to be in America for the first time – although our drinking laws were a shock to some who couldn’t even go into a pub while they were here.

It was with those personalities in mind that my heart broke to hear about the balcony collapse that killed and injured so many people who were here in the prime of their lives. To know they were celebrating and living life to the fullest is a small comfort when so many are lost so young – and to watch as slumlords and papers start to blame them for the accident that killed them is infuriating.

Luckily, there are many decent people here in the bay that would never ever blame the victims and that is something everyone should know. A large memorial has been growing for days and many local Irish groups and pubs are stepping up to help the families in any way they can. Even the large Irish Fair happening in Long Beach hundreds of miles away is having a memorial for them on Sunday. The Irish communities here in California are all circling the wagons and offering help in any way they can and in case that isn’t clear in all the bad reporting, I thought I should emphasize the amazing compassion being shown in the midst of tragedy. I hope it helps the grieving friends and family in some small way.

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Much love and sympathy to all

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