In response to the Berkeley tragedy that left six young Irish students dead, 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 in America. There are an estimated 7,000 Irish students in the US this summer.
“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 program. 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.
"We hope you will take comfort in unwavering US support for Ireland during this difficult time, and continue in your program. In doing so, you send a powerful signal to the world of the Irish capacity to overcome tragedy with grace and perseverance.
“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," he wrote.
“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.”
“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."
Meanwhile, the head of SAYIT Travel traveled to California on Friday to assist students and their families with travel arrangements.
The company released a statement saying: “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.”