US & World

Hundreds crowd CSULB memorial for Paris terror victim Nohemi Gonzalez

Freshmen Hannah Tsutsui, left, and Jordan Christian hold candles at a vigil for slain student Nohemi Gonzalez, who was killed in the Paris terror attacks Nov 13.
Freshmen Hannah Tsutsui, left, and Jordan Christian hold candles at a vigil for slain student Nohemi Gonzalez, who was killed in the Paris terror attacks Nov 13.
Sharon McNary/KPCC
Freshmen Hannah Tsutsui, left, and Jordan Christian hold candles at a vigil for slain student Nohemi Gonzalez, who was killed in the Paris terror attacks Nov 13.
Hundreds of Cal State University Long Beach students, faculty and others gathered with candles at a vigil Nov. 15, 2015 for Nohemi Gonzalez. She was the lone American so far known to be killed in the Paris terror attacks.
Sharon McNary/KPCC


Listen to story

00:58
Download this story 0MB

More than 500 people crowded into a memorial service yesterday Sunday for Nohemi Gonzalez and lit candles at a vigil. She was one of at least 129 people killed in Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris and, so far, the only known American killed.

She had been with friends at a restaurant when the violence broke out.

Gonzalez' stepfather Jose Hernandez told the crowd she had an uncompromising sense of what she wanted in life, and often teased him about it.

"She'd always say, 'Ay Joe! Tu no sabes, You don't know!'"  Hernandez said.

At home they called her Mimi, he said.
 
U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera used the nickname in his memorial poem written Sunday morning, "Nohemi, A Song for Paris."

It concludes with these lines: "Here is your song, Mimi, We light Nohemi a candle. The candle waves across the stars. Close, they are so close because, Nohemi and Paris are  in our hearts."

At school - Cal State Long Beach - she was a take-charge kind of woman. Friends described her as striding down the hall of the design department as if she owned the place.  Gonzalez, a junior, was a well-known figure in the industrial design studio.

"She always was the last one to leave the shop, said fellow  student Alex Schumacher. "She would yell at you if you didn't clean up your area. But she would always be the first person to help you as well."

She was part of an award-winning design team. It came up with a biodegradable snack wrapper that included a seed and packet of dirt, so it could be put in a garden and become a plant, instead of trash.

Martin Herman, chairman of the design school, said Gonzalez was in Paris to develop her own maturing sense of design. 

"May Nohemi's voice, her bright spirit, her playfulness, her ideals and hopes continue to inspire and illuminate the department of design, our university family and all those that she touched during her all too short time."

"Nohemi's senseless murder is our worst nightmare," said Cal State Long Beach President Jane Close Conoley. "We plan and work for student safety everyday."

Student Life Vice President Carmen Taylor told hundreds of students and others that even the most innocent among us can suddenly be at risk.

"That's all Nohemi Gonzalez was doing when she found herself in the middle of some senseless act of violence that had nothing to do with her," Taylor said.