Mother speaks of Cal State Long Beach student killed in Paris terror attacks

ByGabrielle Moreira KABC logo
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Nohemi Gonzalez, CSULB Paris
Nohemi Gonzalez, 23, is shown in a photo posted on the Strate College of Design's Facebook page.

LONG BEACH, Calif. (KABC) -- A 23-year-old California State University, Long Beach student was killed in the Paris terror attacks, the school announced Saturday.

Nohemi Gonzalez, an El Monte resident, was a senior studying industrial design. She was in Paris attending the Strate College of Design as part of a semester abroad program.

Her family struggles to cope with the loss of their only daughter.

"I feel lost, sadness and she was my only daughter," her mother, Beatriz Gonzalez, said. "She was a very strong young woman. She had big decisions, when she went to do something she committed to whatever she was doing."

Gonzalez was one of 17 CSULB students studying abroad, according to a school official, who also said the other 16 students are safe.

During a press conference, school officials said that Gonzalez was killed at one of the restaurant locations while she was out with other students. In the chaos during the attacks, one of the students noticed Gonzalez had been shot and was taken away on a stretcher.

The student got in touch with the university and Gonzalez's friends and family to inform them of what happened. The student's name was not released, but officials at Saturday's press conference called the person a hero for their actions.

Her family said they could hardly believe the news when they received word that she had died.

"When it was confirmed, I think we were all in disbelief, still hoping it was not true and she would show up in rubble or something, you know, not dead," Sandra Felt, Gonzalez's aunt, said. "I'm going to miss her beautiful smile and her common sense. She was something else."

Design professor Michael Laforte said the department was a small family and that Gonzalez's passing deeply impacted everyone. She had recently come in second in a design competition.

"Nohemi was something of a star in our department. She was a shining star," he said.

The university will hold a vigil at 4 p.m. Sunday. An official with the school also noted that Saturday was homecoming and that the celebration would go on with a "somber tone."

"I'm deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Long Beach State University student Nohemi Gonzalez. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends during this sad time," CSULB President Jane Close Conoley said. "Our university stands with our nearly eighty foreign exchange students from France as they struggle with this tragedy. We will extend all support necessary to comfort them. We will also extend support to all students, faculty and staff who are in need."

In a statement, Gov. Jerry Brown expressed his condolences to the Gonzalez family. He also ordered all Capitol flags to be flown at half-staff for all the victims in the terrorist attacks.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis issued a statement regarding the attacks in Paris and Gonzalez's death.

"My heart grieves for the victims of the Paris attacks," the statement said. "At these moments, we struggle to understand what motivates individuals to commit such heinous acts...My prayers and thoughts are with the family of El Monte resident Nohemi Gonzalez..."

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia tweeted his condolences to the Gonzalez family.

During the press conference, Garcia added that the city was in mourning because Gonzalez was a loved member of the community.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris also issued a statement.

"On behalf of the California Department of Justice, I extend my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Nohemi Gonzales, whose young life was among those so tragically cut short by reprehensible acts of terrorism in Paris yesterday," it said. "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. We are all Parisians today."