Entire department remembers Nohemi Gonzalez
Story by Katie Cortez Editor in Chief
On Friday, Nov. 13, the design department at California State University, Long Beach was shaken to the core.
Hundreds of people gathered on campus, Sunday, Nov. 16 to mourn the loss of 23-year-old design student, Nohemi Gonzalez, who was fatally shot during the Paris terrorist attacks. Since her death, the design department has been been in a state of shock and deep sorrow at the loss of one of their most treasured students. “In this department we are very family-oriented. We are a small department everybody knows everyone,” design professor Matias Ocana said. “I had her as a student, I had her as an assistant, it really was like losing one of my own kids, in a way.”
Gonzalez, a senior, was a teacher’s assistant for three of Ocana’s courses over her time at CSULB: DESN 151 (Design Materials & Tools), 154 (Model & Prototype Technique), and 254 (Production Materials & Technique Processes), as well as the program’s first female technician. She was always “encouraging people to step out of the box,” Ocana said. “She had this quality of recognizing or targeting what the specific problems any student may have and was able to guide them and help them.”
As a TA, Gonzalez touched not only the lives of the professors she assisted, but her kindness and passion for design was passed down to her students as well. “She was very passionate and organized and liked to keep her shop clean, and she taught us that,” design sophomore Alysia El Nagar, 25, said. “She was a little intimidating, but it was because she was such an awesome human being.”
El Nagar fondly remembers a time when Gonzalez helped her learn to use a laser cutter for one of her design projects. “Now, every time I see that dragon with the laser cuts, I think about how it was something she helped me to do,” El Nagar said. “This memory is almost tangible because of that moment.”
In order to cope with the loss, students and professors are joining together to know her and remember the girl they once knew.
“One thing that amazes me is how one person can have such an effect on so many people,” design professor David Teubner said. “Students knew her as a mentor and a friend, knew her as someone who would stay late and help them with their projects, go the extra mile for them.”
“We’re trying to continue in our lives and move on, but then you hear comments about war. I don’t think any of us are thinking about that,” El Nagar said. “She was taken away from us.”
Some members of the CSULB design community are suffering harder from the loss of Gonzalez than others. One unnamed student cannot come to school because she needs time to process the whole situation. “We want to reach out to her and hold her, but we can’t,” Teubner said. “She can’t deal with it yet.”
The design community here at home is shocked, but it’s much worse for those students who still remain overseas. “We lost one student tragically, but it traumatized our entire building, at least four other students who were there. I’m concerned about them,” Teubner said. One of those students was Gonzalez’s best friend, the other was in the restaurant at the time of the attack. Both students were Skyped into the CSULB vigil via cell phone.
“We have a lot of students who come and go, but Nohemi was not just a student,” Teubner said. “She impacted everyone at every level. That’s what was amazing, that’s why it hurts. They took someone away from us who was just such an important part of everything we do and everything we believe in.”