Friends, relatives and students crowded into a university ballroom Sunday to recall the tireless, outsize personality of Nohemi Gonzalez, the 23-year-old American college student killed during the terrorist attack in Paris.
Gonzalez, a junior in the design department at California State University-Long Beach who was studying in Paris, died at one of the restaurants struck Friday night.
To her teary-eyed boyfriend, Tim, she was the one who "ran" the shop class where they met four years ago. "She was the first one in, the last one out," he said, adding: "She owned it."
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To Martin Herman, chairman of the university's design department, she was an imaginative and "charismatic leader" who seemed destined for great things. To her stepfather, Jose Hernandez, she was "Mimi," the sassy scold who "chewed" him up and treated him a like a grown-up kid.
He added, "All I can say is: We're here because of Mimi. She was a wonderful kid. If there's anything bad to say, I can't think of it."
At one point, the university system's chancellor read a poem written to her by U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, and a French official commended "the American people, who have — as usual — shown an incredible amount of sympathy for the people of France."
Toward the end of the memorial, a classmate read aloud a note from three students whom she'd studied with in Paris.
"Rest in peace, little one," the note read. "Don't forget to design some bad-ass stuff while you're in heaven."