LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Hundreds of people packed a ballroom Sunday to remember a 23-year-old California college student who was among the 129 people killed in the Paris attacks.
Nohemi Gonzalez, a 23-year-old senior studying industrial design at California State University, Long Beach, was at a Paris restaurant Friday night with classmates when she was fatally shot Friday.
Gonzalez was studying at the Strate College of Design in Paris as part of a semester-abroad program. A fellow American student in the program saw Gonzalez get shot and carried away on a stretcher.
At the vigil Sunday, a standing-only crowd of students, faculty and family members remembered Gonzalez as a hard-working student with lofty dreams. She worked as a teaching assistant at the university and as a shop technician who oversaw lower-division students on their design projects.
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“She touched practically all of them, as a matter of fact, because all of our students must go through those classes and learn the materials and tools of the trade,” said Martin Herman, chair of the university’s design department.
“She was instrumental in shepherding all of our students along that journey, and she was always generous with her time, her knowledge and her understanding,” he said.
Her boyfriend, Tim Mraz, said Gonzalez was “the first in, last out, every day” in the design lab.
“She’ll always be here, she’ll always be in my heart,” Mraz said as he spoke through tears.
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Gonzalez’s mother, Beatriz Gonzalez, said in an interview Saturday that her daughter graduated from high school early and couldn’t wait to move to the dorms at a college.
“She was very independent since she was little. Since kindergarten. I remember she used to organize everything,” Beatriz Gonzalez said. “She wanted to have a career and a family.”
Her stepfather, Jose Hernandez, said that as the news in Paris broke, he began receiving panicked texts from Nohemi’s boyfriend in California, who said he couldn’t get in touch with her.
“I replied and I said, ‘well don’t worry it’s OK.’ I tried to calm him down,” Hernandez said at the Los Angeles County barbershop where he works.
But then the FBI arrived at their door and their worst fears were confirmed.
The family said the FBI informed them it could be weeks before Nohemi’s body is returned to the U.S. because of the ongoing investigation.
Politicians and state university officials sent statements expressing their sadness and offering condolences to Gonzalez’s family.
Gov. Jerry Brown said flags would be flown at half-staff at the Capitol for victims of the terror attacks.
The university said 17 of its students were studying in France this semester and the other 16 students were safe.
Gonzalez was from the Los Angeles suburb of El Monte.