'Beautiful Person': Calif. College Student Among Victims of Paris Terror - NBC Bay Area
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'Beautiful Person': Calif. College Student Among Victims of Paris Terror

Nohemi Gonzalez is the first known American victim of the Paris terrorist attacks

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Family Speaks After CSU Student Killed in Paris Attack

    Family members of a 23-year-old Cal State Long Beach student killed in France terror attacks speak out on her dream assignment studying abroad. Jane Yamamoto reports for the NBC4 News at 11. (Published Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015)

    A California State University, Long Beach student was among those killed in the Paris terrorist attacks, the university confirmed Saturday.

    Nohemi Gonzalez, 23, of El Monte, was killed during the attacks in and around Paris Friday. According to Cal State Long Beach President Jane Close Conoley, Gonzalez was at a restaurant with other students when she was wounded. Details on how she was killed were not made available.

    Gonzalez was a senior studying design and was in Paris attending Strate College of Design during a semester abroad program, according to a press release by the university.

    Only four students were supposed to go to Paris, but Gonzalez was accepted into the program at the last minute as the fifth and final student, said her aunt Sandra Felt.

    Michael LaForte, a lecturer at Cal State Long Beach, called Gonzalez a "star student" and a "deep, profound" presence of the design department.

    "She brought joy, happiness and laughter to everybody she worked with," he said. "She functioned like a mentor to the younger students."

    The design department is "close-knit," LaForte said, and her death affects them profoundly.

    "She was a beautiful person, she would give the shirt off her back to help someone else," Felt told NBC News in a phone interview.

    Felt said Gonzalez spent Christmas and Easter at her house and that the two were "very close." She said Gonzalez, also called "Mimi" by friends and family, liked sports and was a "go-getter" who worked to save up money for her trip to Paris. 

    "She’s going to be greatly missed," the aunt said. 

    Shondra Thomas, Gonzalez's cousin, said they were raised together like sisters.

    She said her heart broke as soon as she overheard her mom crying on the phone.

    "The last thing we told each other was, 'See you at Christmas,'" Thomas said.

    Gonzalez's boyfriend, Tim Mraz, also expressed his grief in an Instagram post: 

    "Yesterday I lost the most important person in my life. She was my best friend and she will always be my angel forever. I am lost for words. My prayers are with her family. Such a bright soul and the sweetest girl with a smile on her face. Thank you to the friends and family that are reaching out. You will always be my Pocahontas and I will always be your John Smith. Te amo@poca1019."

    The school's homecoming celebration Saturday has taken on a "somber tone," officials said. The university will hold a vigil at 4 p.m. on Sunday to mourn Gonzalez's passing and to grieve for the victims of the attack.

    "I'm deeply saddened by the news of the passing of Long Beach State University student Nohemi Gonzalez," Conoley said in a statement. "Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends during this sad time. 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."

    Councilmembers from the city of El Monte expressed their sympathies in a statement released Saturday.

    “Nohemi Gonzalez was living life to the fullest, studying abroad, doing what she loved,” said El Monte Mayor Andre Quintero. “It breaks my heart that she was an innocent victim of senseless violence."

    He called for the entire El Monte community to keep Gonzalez's family and friends in its prayers.

    "Our students grow up strong, smart, creative and eager to see the world," said councilwoman Victoria Martinez. "We must unite as a global community to ensure freedom is alive and our children are safe."

    Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti shared his sympathy in a tweet: "My heart goes out to the Gonzalez family of El Monte, who lost their Nohemi last night. We mourn for all victims including one of our own."

    Sixteen other Long Beach students who are also studying abroad in Paris are safe, Conoley said.

    At least 129 people were killed and 352 injured in the attacks Friday night in Paris. The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility.

    An American woman, was also undergoing surgery late Saturday at a Paris hospital after being wounded in the attacks. Helen Jane Wilson was at the Bataclan concert hall to hear the Eagles of Death Metal band perform Friday night when gunmen burst into the venue, killing 89 people. 

    Wilson told The Associated Press she was shot in the leg and was heading into surgery at L'hopital Saint-Antoine.

    Wilson said she lived in New Orleans before moving to Paris, where she runs Rock en Bol, a catering company. According to her Facebook page, Wilson is originally from Los Angeles.

    Among those killed at the concert hall was a British man, Nick Alexander, his family said, NBC News reported. 

     NBC4's Jane Yamamoto contributed to this report.