LONG BEACH, Calif. — At the university where she was considered among the hardest working and most promising students, an overflow crowd of mourners gathered Sunday to remember Nohemi Gonzalez, the American killed in the Paris terrorist attacks.
Gonzalez, 23, was shot at a bistro Friday night by gunmen who opened fire from a passing vehicle.
At the gathering Sunday at California State University, Long Beach, Stephen Kosai, who knew Gonzalez as his student teacher, said in an interview that her enthusiasm stood out. “She was very lively, always really high spirited” and “loved industrial design,” he said.
She was especially thrilled at the prospect of going overseas to Paris as a foreign student. “She was very excited when she got…the news,” Kosai said.
Gonzalez had gone to Paris like so many students before her, ready to explore the city and attend classes with a sense of wonder and hopes that the experience would help her find her inner voice, Martin Herman, chairman of the university’s design department where she was a major, told the crowd. He says he had seen himself that “there was something deeply reflective in her.”
Within the department, she was often in charge the design workshop and “ran a very tight ship,” he says. Even though she had a fun-loving personality, she was a student assistant who insisted on high standards, cracking the whip if students didn’t leave the shop clean. She was also tireless, sometimes working late into early morning to finish projects.
“She was always the last one to leave the shop,” said a classmate, Alex Schumacher. She was the hardest-working member of their group.
Her boyfriend, Tim Mraz, who met her in shop class, said, “she ran that place, man. She owned it.” Now, he said, she will “always be here. She will be still roaming those halls.”
The university’s president, Jane Close Conoley, called Gonzalez’ violent death “an assault on our hearts.”
Jennifer Hayat, who works in the campus’ study abroad program office, says there is shock that one of university’s students could have been killed in the attack. “She is one of the students we supported to send abroad.” Now, “I want to be here to make sure our family knows our college really supports her,” Hayat said.
Hundreds attended the memorial, swelling to a standing-room-only crowd. Many brought flowers.
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