Belinda Feek is a NZ Herald reporter

Embassy flag at half mast in show of respect for Orlando victims

Mark Gilbert, the United States Ambassador to New Zealand. Photo / File
Mark Gilbert, the United States Ambassador to New Zealand. Photo / File

The American Embassy is today flying its flag half mast as a show of respect to those who have lost their lives or been injured in the Orlando shooting.

American ambassador Mark Gilbert told the Herald that Florida was his home state and Orlando is a city he's been travelling to for the past 45 years.

"I have spent quite a lot of time in Orlando and seen a number of my friends who have been on television today. It's a very sad day in Orlando, it's tragic."

Mr Gilbert says the Embassy flag was now flying half mast.

"The President [Barack Obama[ has put out a proclamation and we've lowered the flags to half staff at the Embassy and the residence. We will get together as an embassy community to take a moment to remember those that have died and pray for those that are fighting for their lives, which at the moment there is over 50 that are in the hospital and many of them are in a very serious condition so we will take some time out to reflect."

When asked if it was a time for concern for the LGBT community in America, Mr Gilbert says Isis have targeted a wide range of groups and it seems to be neverending.

"When you have seen these kind of attacks they have been against types of communities. We have seen what has happened in Europe where some of the attacks are anti-semitic attacks, we've seen attacks that have been against certain religious groups, and this one is LGBT. It's really hard to understand the mindset of someone who has that much hate, but it's why all the rest of us need to stand together."

Mr Gilbert, who has been fielding messages of condolence from his New Zealand friends and colleagues all day, says although he has many friends in Orlando he has been busy travelling today and is yet to have a chance to make contact with any of them, but he's seen a few on TV.

"I've communicated with a few people via email, but since I got back on CNN I saw some of my friends who are involved there, the Mayor of Orlando Buddy Dyer, Senator Bill Nelson, as were a few other members of congress who I know well, who were talking about what has happened and expressing their condolences to the family."

- NZ Herald

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