City officials and residents gathered on the steps of City Hall Tuesday night in memory of the 129 people who lost their lives in the Paris terror attacks, while students and staff at Whittier High School held a similar gathering to honor alum Nohemi Gonzalez, the only American known to have died in the violence.
Gonzalez, 23, of El Monte, a senior majoring in industrial design at Cal State Long Beach, was one of 17 CSULB students attending a college of design in Paris as part of a semester abroad program. She was killed Friday night while having dinner with friends at a popular bistro called La Belle Equipe in one of a series of attacks blamed on ISIS.
She graduated from Whittier High School in 2010.
In downtown Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti and French Consul General Christophe Lemoine joined dozens of residents and other city officials, holding candles in remembrance of all the victims. Behind them, City Hall was awash in blue, white and red — the colors of the French flag.
“We shine these (candles) as symbols of light, the City of Light and this city, our deepened resolve to light the world against violence and hatred, with the goodness that’s in our hearts here tonight,” Garcetti said. “That’s how we honor the lives of these innocent victims. That’s how we remember our own Nohemi Gonzalez, who grew up here in Los Angeles and is now in heaven. It’s how we find light to confront the evil in our world, to defeat it and create a more peaceful world for our children and our grandchildren.
“We can envision that future by looking at the faces of everyone here tonight,” he said. “Look to your left and to your right and in front of you and behind you. Hold close those that you love. Each of these days is precious.
“The love and compassion that you show for Paris and one another embodies the humanity — it embodies the grace that will see us through these difficult days and give us the strength to walk in love even in our time of grief.”
The California State University Board of Trustees, meeting Tuesday at Cal State Long Beach, held a moment of silence in memory of Gonzalez. Chancellor Timothy White struggled to contain his emotions as he talked about her death.
“Even the most powerful words and thoughtful sentences come up short,” White said.
On Sunday, about 500 people gathered at a remembrance ceremony at CSULB to pay tribute to Gonzalez.
University President Jane Close Conoley told the mourners that the university is a tight-knit community that shares the Gonzalez family’s grief, saying her death was”an assault on our hearts.”
“We miss her today and we’ll miss her forever,” Conoley said.
During the ceremony, the chairman of CSULB’s industrial design program told the Gonzalez family that Nohemi was a luminary among her peers.
“We are all heartbroken that such a beautiful light has been ripped from us,” Dr. Martin Herman said. “(Her) goodness and compassion infused the department.”
Gonzalez was one of 129 people killed in Friday’s attacks. A music executive and a British man who worked for the Palm Desert-based rock band Eagles of Death Metal were also among those killed. The band was performing at the Bataclan theater in Paris when gunmen stormed the building and began shooting patrons.
“I cannot even begin to express the depth of my sorrow,” Universal Music Group Chairman Lucian Grainge wrote in a note to employees discussing the death of Thomas Ayad. “On behalf of everyone here at UMG, we extend our most profound sympathies to his parents and all of his friends and family.”
Grainge called the death of Ayad, an international product manager for Mercury, “an unspeakably appalling tragedy.”
Eagles of Death Metal was seven songs into its sold-out concert when gunshots interrupted the performance. Of the 129 deaths blamed on ISIS terrorists, 89 were killed at the Bataclan.
The band members escaped unharmed. But Nick Alexander, a British man who sold merchandise for Eagles of Death Metal, was among those killed.
In a statement to the British press, Alexander’s family said that “with huge sorrow … we can confirm that our beloved Nick lost his life at the Bataclan last night.” A statement said he “died doing the job he loved and we take great comfort in knowing how much he was cherished by his friends around the world.”
Britain’s The Independent newspaper reported that Alexander was 36 and from Colchester in Essex.
—City News Service