Remembering Nohemi Gonzalez on the anniversary of the Paris terror attacks

A photo of Nohemi Gonzalez from her Facebook page.
A photo of Nohemi Gonzalez from her Facebook page.
Nohemi Gonzalez Facebook

Red was Nohemi Gonzalez's favorite color. So when Cal State Long Beach wanted to plant a tree in her honor, they chose a Chinese pistachio. Uncommon in Southern California, the leaves of the tall and luminous tree turn a vibrant red in the fall, an annual reminder of Gonzalez's death.

A passionate student of industrial design, the 23-year-old El Monte resident was spending a semester in Paris as part of CSULB's exchange program.

On November 13, 2015, 130 people were murdered during a series of coordinated terror attacks on a soccer stadium, a theater and several cafes and restaurants. Gonzalez, out at a restaurant with friends that night, was among them.

On Sunday, the first anniversary of the Paris massacre, she is being honored with a tree-planting ceremony on the Long Beach campus.

"It's a simple idea, an elegant idea, a really beautiful idea," says Martin Herman, chair of Cal State Long Beach's design department. "And it's something that's living too. We wanted this event to be about her life, her energy, her passions, her dreams and everything that goes along with that."

The bright red autumn leaves of a Chinese pistachio tree in Brisbane, Australia.
The bright red autumn leaves of a Chinese pistachio tree in Brisbane, Australia.
Photo by Tatters via Flickr / Creative Commons

The event will begin at 12:30 at the department's south entrance. The event is open to members of the community and free to attend.

"The one thing we didn't want to do after this tragic event, and the family felt this strongly too, was to retreat into a very dark and fearful place. instead we wanted to make sure we provided students the opportunity to pursue what Nohemi herself was pursuing," Herman says.

In addition to the tree, the university has set up a scholarship — endowed by a mystery donor — for design students to either study abroad or attend conferences where they can engage in global issues related to design. 

CSULB already has exchange programs with the Strate School of Design in Paris and Coventry University in England. It is developing similar programs with design schools in Japan and Vietnam.

The first Nohemi Gonzalez Fund for International Study will be awarded for travel either in the summer or fall of the next academic year. It will cover tuition, room and board for a semester.

"That's the good that's come out of it," Herman says, "if you can put it that way."