Paris Attacks: California Student Remembered

Nohemi Gonzalez memorial (Chris Carlson / Associated Press)
Chris Carlson / Associated Press

Nohemi Gonzalez, 23, the first American identified among those shot and killed by radical Islamic terrorists in Friday’s deadly Paris attacks, was remembered by hundreds of mourners in Long Beach on Sunday evening.

Gonzalez was a native of Whittier, California and a prized design student at California State University Long Beach, where she was completing her senior year.

According to Bay Area public radio station KQED, Gonzalez was participating in an exchange program at the Strate College of Design in France. It was her first time abroad. She was dining at the Le Petit Cambodge restaurant with several of her friends when a rifle-wielding terrorist opened fire from a passing vehicle. Nohemi was taken to a hospital but died from her injuries. The other students with her were able to escape the dreadful scene.

The design student had a bright future ahead of her, KQED reports, and many of her teachers and peers saw her as gifted. “Nohemi was something of a star in our department,” design professor Michael LaForte told KQED. “She was a shining star, and she brought joy, happiness, laughter to everybody she worked with and her students, her classmates. She functioned like a bit of a mentor to younger students.”

The university was reportedly notified of her death by French school officials and confirmed the death with her parents.

According to the Washington Post, another American citizen, Helen Jane Wilson, 49, of New Orleans, Louisiana, was among those wounded at the Bataclan concert hall. Nick Alexander, 36, the British merchandise manager for California-based rock band “Eagles of Death Metal,” which was also performing at the concert hall, was also shot dead. According to some accounts, the jihadists reportedly shouted “it’s for Syria” and “Allahu Akbar!” before opening fire.

France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Sweden, Algeria, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Tunisia and Algeria all reported losses.

Martin Herman, the chairman of the CSU Long Beach industrial design program, described Gonzalez as “buoyant and very outgoing.” He told the Washington Post that she mentored other students and had been entrusted with a great deal of responsibility.

“We stand with Nohemi’s loved ones and the entire California State University, Long Beach family, as they grieve this loss and seek solace in this tragic hour, Attorney General Kamal Harris said. “We are all Parisians today.”

On Sunday, flags were set at half staff in the state capitol to honor Golzalez’s memory and the lives of at least 129 people who were brutally murdered at the hands of Islamic State militants.

A campus vigil for Gonzalez took place on Sunday at 4 p.m. to mourn her passing and to grieve the victims of the Paris attacks. A second vigil is also planned for Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at Whittier High School, where Gonzalez graduated in 2010.

Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz and on Facebook.