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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

Cal State Vigil Honors American Design Student Killed In Paris Terrorist Attacks

The CSULB Student Union was packed with heavy hearts Sunday evening in honor of CSULB design student Nohemi Gonzalez.

José Hernandez did not expect the huge media turnout for Sunday afternoon’s vigil ceremony at California State University, Long Beach. 

Hernandez did not expect hundreds of people to raise their candles in solidarity with him and the rest of the Gonzalez family on campus.

He also did not expect his stepdaughter “Mimi” or Nohemi Gonzalez to be among those killed in the Paris terrorists attacks while she was studying abroad.

“We are here because Mimi is in our hearts. Mimi is not dead,” said Hernandez.

Faculty, family and friends filled up Cal State’s student union, while the overflow crowd listened to the ceremony outside via speakers, to mourn the loss of 23-year-old Gonzalez, a design major at the university. Her classmates left flowers and wrote letters for Gonzalez with messages such as “we know you’re at peace” and “your soul will live on with us.”

Gonzalez, who was described by her peers as a “diligent” and “hard-working” student, was studying at the Strate School of Design in Paris. On November 13th, Gonzalez and other CSULB students were dining at a Parisian restaurant when she was shot and later died from her injuries at a hospital, according to Hernandez.

“This is all still a really big shock. It really hurts me that this happened… she was a really really huge role model in my life,“ said Ellie Gonzalez, the 23-year-old’s cousin who quickly left the stage overcome with emotion.

Gonzalez’s longtime boyfriend Tim Mraz , who was seen being comforted by Hernandez, gave a tearful tribute to his girlfriend.

“She will always be here. She’ll always be in my heart,” said Mraz. 

Following the speeches, the crowd filed outside the student union and raised their candles one by one as the university’s Bob Cole Conservatory of Music choir sang “Sing me to Heaven.”

“It’s a lot bigger than this school and … politics … it’s a person and she changed people’s lives and she mattered to a lot of people,” Crista Chaire, a CSULB student and friend of Gonzalez, explained.

Gonzalez was one of at least 129 people killed in Friday’s act of terror. A second vigil has been planned for Gonzalez on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at her alma mater Whittier High School.

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