BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — A University of California, Berkeley student who was killed in last week’s Bastille Day truck attack in France was remembered Monday as a charismatic and engaged member of the campus community who would not want his death to inspire revenge.
Several hundred people, including the university’s chancellor and the French consul general, attended a university vigil in honor of 20-year-old Nicolas Leslie, the Berkeley junior who was one of the 84 people killed in the Nice terror attack.
“We feel, I think I can say for all of us, overwhelmed by the unspeakable horror and tragedy that took place in Nice,” Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks told the crowd consisting primarily of students. “Yet this evening we are united as one, for we all have all come here together to mourn the loss and celebrate and honor the life of Nicolas Leslie.”
Childhood friends, Phi Gamma Delta fraternity brothers and classmates described the environmental science major and avid surfer from the San Diego area as a happy and generous young man who lived life to the fullest and lit up rooms with a radiant smile.
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“Nick was just an incredible human being. If you had a chance to even meet him for a second, know how lucky you are,” said Natasha Nicholson, a family friend from Del Mar, California.
Leslie was one of 85 California college students attending a month-long entrepreneurship class and competition in Nice, hosted by the European Innovation Academy and organized by Berkeley’s Study Abroad program, UC Berkeley officials said.
He had been missing since a Tunisian man rammed a truck through crowds watching a fireworks display on a seafront promenade. Friends, relatives and university officials had been searching hospitals in Nice and plastering the city with flyers before the FBI informed university officials Leslie was among the dead.
Three other Berkeley students were injured in the attack, while one other program participant still was unaccounted for as of Monday: 21-year-old Estonian Rickard Kruusberg.
The Ukrainian embassy in Ottawa confirmed the death of a citizen on Monday but declined to release his name. A spokesman said only one Ukrainian citizen, 22-year-old Canada-based Ukrainian national Misha Bazelevskyy, who also was studying with the European Innovation Academy, was reported missing in the Nice attack.
Another Berkeley student, 18-year-old sophomore Tarishi Jain, was among the 20 hostages killed by militants in Dhaka, Bangladesh, earlier this month.
With the Berkeley campus quiet for the summer, school officials and friends gathered in front of a poster-sized photograph of Leslie, white flowers and a roll of paper on which mourners were asked to write remembrances. Behind them stood the American, French and Italian flags — Leslie’s mother is Italian and he was born in Milan.
Leslie’s uncle, Alberto Leslie, told the San Diego Union Tribune (http://bit.ly/29QbSxn ) that his brother and sister-in-law were in France on Monday to claim their only child’s body.
“I ask that people send light and love to them, because they’re in a very dark place. I just want them to know that people are thinking of him,” Alberto Leslie said.
At Berkeley, Leslie hoped to acquire the skills and contacts to parlay his love of oceans into a job protecting them. He had planned to study at the university’s business school at the fall and was a member of a student-run consulting group that provides marketing, research and social responsibility advice.
Campus Dean of Students Joseph Greenwell said that Leslie’s parents hoped other Berkeley students would follow his example by working for positive change in the world.