Berkeley tragedy: US ambassador urges J1 students not to go home

US ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley has written an open letter to all Irish students on J1 visas encouraging them to stay on and finish their summer working overseas.

Berkeley tragedy: US ambassador urges J1 students not to go home

“Earlier this week, our flag at the US Embassy in Dublin flew at half-mast in remembrance of the J1 students who lost their lives in the June 16 Berkeley tragedy.

“These six young people had much to offer each of our countries, and my thoughts and prayers are with the families, loved ones, and friends. I will continue to do whatever I can to offer support to those affected and my deepest sympathies.”

Mr O’Malley told students to take comfort from unwavering US support for Ireland and to stay on in America for the rest of the summer.

“This is a devastating experience for everyone involved. Even as we all grieve this terrible loss, we here at the US Embassy would encourage you to remain strong, and draw upon the deep well of strength that the Irish are known for around the world.

“There will be times in your life where you’re challenged, when tragedy strikes and you’re left to pick up the pieces. In these moments, it becomes even more important to join together with friends and find strength in supporting one another.

“Friendship has always been at the root of the J1 summer work and travel programme. As we’ve seen over the last 50 years with more than 150,000 Irish participating, it has created bonds of friendship between US and Irish youth that last a lifetime.

READ MORE: Berkeley: Let students express their loss and grief their way.

“We hope you will take comfort in unwavering US support for Ireland during this difficult time, and continue in your programme. In doing so, you send a powerful signal to the world of the Irish capacity to overcome tragedy with grace and perseverance.”

Meanwhile, the head of SAYIT Travel is due in California today to assist students and their families with travel arrangements.

In a statement the company said: “SAYIT would like to express their deepest sympathy and support to all of our J1 students, their families and friends in the US and in Ireland who have been involved in this truly tragic situation in Berkeley, California.

“This is a devastating experience for everyone and we are currently working with the crisis centre set up by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs to respond to this emergency.

“SAYIT is happy to facilitate anyone who has been affected by this tragedy and assist those who need to travel either to or from the area to be with their loved ones.”

The number for SAYIT Travel’s Emergency Consular Response Team is 01 418 0200.

Meanwhile, Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger was one of those to send a message of condolence following the deaths of the six students.

The German World Cup winner was pictured with one of the victims, Niccolai Schuster, who was wearing an autographed shirt of the team’s famous red and white home strip, in an image circulated on social media.

“The message is making me very sad. I wish you, the family and all relatives of Nick much strength for this difficult time. I also would like to send my deep-felt condolences to all other people who were affected by this tragedy,” Schweinsteiger wrote.

Mr Schuster, a UCD student, was pictured with his arm round the footballer, prompting the response.

Schweinsteiger, captain of Germany, posted the message online after a request from one of the 21-year-old’s friends.

Elsewhere on social media some of the injured and relatives left messages of thanks to those who have supported them in the days since the tragedy in Berkeley, California.

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