Heartbreak in Berkeley

As many people already know, I lost one of my oldest and best friends in the accident in Berkeley the other day. Lorcán was nothing short of a gentleman. He has been known to show up at my house with several bags of crispy m&ms in the middle of the night after breakups or exam disappointments. We used to walk down by Shankill beach and pass two huge seafront houses. He was going to buy one, I was going to buy the other, and our kids would grow up as best friends. Ideally, two of our children would fall in love, and we’d have a few mutual grandchildren. He promised that if I asked him to be a bridesmaid at my wedding, he would wear a dress, or at least a matching suit. We’d spend hours on the beach talking. I’m struggling to remember what exactly we talked about for hours on end. Probably the normal stuff; relationships, college, exams, food, family, what we were doing next weekend. It all seems so trivial now, and I can’t help wondering if I told him enough how much he meant to me.

This tragedy has affected so many people. It’s hard to find someone who isn’t somehow connected to it. For many, it is the first time we have had to deal with the loss of a peer, and it’s not something anyone can plan for. It comes as a complete shock to the system. As I slowly come to terms with it, I find myself swinging between every emotion. Sadness, grief, loss, anger, bitterness, frustration, hysteria, calmness, and back to sadness. As I am currently in Vietnam, I try to find comfort in whatever familiarity I can find. I went hunting for a McDonalds yesterday, just so as not to feel so far away from home. With so many friends and family of the deceased scattered all over the world, I can only imagine the loneliness and helplessness people feel. 

My mom keeps telling me (over Skype) to think of all the good memories I have, and what he’d say to me in this situation. He always said I’m lucky I’m not an ugly crier, a high compliment at my lowest moments. So I guess he’d remind me of that again. When I went through a really hard time this year in college and felt very low, I confided in him about it. He told me that I’m one of the strongest and most resilient people he knows, and if anyone can come out smiling, I can. He loved meeting friends of mine. Several times he’d turn up at my house if I had friends around, regardless of whether he knew them (usually he didn’t), and he’d somehow become the centre of everything. Because of this, so many of my wide circle of friends have met Lorcán. I have received so many messages from friends, reminding me of their own experiences of him. People are so inherently kind and supportive, and that is really showing through, and something I am so grateful for.

Family was incredibly important to Lorcán. He adored his three younger siblings, and spoke non-stop of their latest school plays or spelling tests or birthday parties. He spoke with such admiration of his two parents Sinead and Ken, and I am thinking of them and praying for their strength constantly. He considered himself an extension of my family too. He was very fond of my parents and brother. They often knew as much about his love life as I did, and he would happily sit in with my parents and a G&T and spill his heart to them. I’m flying home from Vietnam later today to be surrounded by all the people who loved him as I did.

To all those who are grieving for the six young people, I am so so sorry for your pain. To the families and friends of those injured, I am constantly praying and wishing for their full recovery. To all the people who have contacted me over the past two days, thank you for your kindness. Everyone is in this together, and it seems as though every person in Ireland is shocked and saddened by the loss of six beautiful, bright people. Lorcán had so much more to give, but his achievements in life far exceeded the time he had. He brought immeasurable happiness and joy to me and so many others, something I am eternally grateful for. He will be in my heart always.  

Katie Wolahan



A Checklist

– One 66 litre backpack

– Two pairs of shoes

– One bottle of the most formidable insect repellant available

– Five Vietnam iPhone apps i’ll never use

– One set of scrubs

– One GoPro Hero 3

– One rough plan: Beginning on the 16th of June 2015 with a few days in Hanoi, including a trip to Ha Long Bay. An overnight train heading South through Vietnam to Hue, our home for a month. A few weekend trips to Da Nang and Hoi An. After a month of placement in Hue Central Hospital, travelling south to Ho Chi Minh, with a week in southern Vietnam. A train to Cambodia with a 2 day stop off in Siem Reap, followed by another train to Bangkok for a night or two. A train, bus and ferry down south through Thailand to arrive in Koh Samui. A week on the beach, followed by a long flight home to reality at the beginning of August.

Wish me luck.