I am not, by nature, one who writes on subjects which have already been extensively covered in the news, but this article does not bear witness to that. I am not, by nature, one who typically tackles such hard-to-stomach subjects with such matter-of-factual language, but I feel that, in this case, straightforward telling gives this tragic story some measure of potency it would not retain otherwise. Finally, I have, against my better judgment, included my own experiences in this article because I feel that doing so is the only way I am able to make any sense of the cataclysmic tragedy that has befallen the victimized souls of the Parisian attacks and their families. With all this in mind, I will proceed.
Unless you live under a rock, you have heard that several individuals from a certain organization carrying out a certain “religious crusade” killed 132 people (thus far) and injured over 350 more in a coordinated assault in the French capital this past Friday. Among the ranks of the deceased is an American college student named Nohemi Gonzalez. I acknowledge that as a citizen of the United States, my mentioning of the one known American victimized in an attack that claimed over 130 other lives of non-Americans must surely reek of clichéd American narcissism. This perception may indeed be true, but I suppose ones deepest sympathies are often allied with those individuals with whom one relates best to, and in this case, Ms. Gonzalez is that individual for me.
A 23-year-old student at Long Beach State, Gonzalez had been studying abroad at Strate College of Design for the fall semester. A guest with three other friends at a popular bistro in Paris, Nohemi’s companions were lucky enough to escape. Ms. Gonzalez, who was fatally shot by gunmen that opened fire from a passing vehicle, was not. As I alluded to a moment ago, the story has been given its due attention by the American press, and a vigil has been planned at Long Beach State in the wake of her death.
For my part, I find the nature of Ms. Gonzalez’s presence in Paris a particularly disturbing element of this story. She was a student who arrived for a semester abroad in September and was slated to return home a month from now in time for the holidays. A year ago at this time I, like Nohemi, was spending a semester abroad in Europe. With each day that passed there I found myself engaging in yet another first experience that fostered an increase in my self-confidence and made me feel ever more like a person whose life could some day amount to anything I chose. During those days I believed for the first time that I could make my own meaningful mark on this world and that the lessons living in a foreign country were teaching me would make me a better, more accepting person.
It is with absolute certainty that I can assure you Nohemi Gonzalez was feeling at least some measure of the same emotions that I, and every other student that has ever lived abroad for a time, have felt. It is for this reason that I read her story with such a heavy heart. I do not especially care what the news outlets have to say about Ms. Gonzalez’s kindness, zeal for life, or friendliness. What these reports describe about her certainly must be true, but at this time my heart is lead not just for the person that Nohemi Gonzalez was, but for the person that she was becoming and for the family she has left behind who will never see her again.
The assault by Islamic State militants on Paris this past Friday has not only dominated my thoughts this weekend, but it has also made me realize with a brooding clarity that the war ISIS has declared is an all-encompassing one. Had the strikes that were staged in Paris this week been staged twelve months ago in London, the American Student killed could have just as easily been myself or one of my peers rather than Ms. Gonzalez. It is a great tragedy of this world that the everyday innocent must always remain vigilant and cautious for fear of atrocities just like the one that occurred in Paris two days ago. Today, this tragedy has me grieving the loss of Nohemi Gonzalez and nearly five hundred other strangers just like myself. Vive la Paris.
Yours very sincerely and respectfully,
A Not-So-Well Respected Man
As I trust you already have your own sources for news on the Paris attacks I will merely leave you with this exemplar of the compassion the human spirit is capable of:
For More Information on Nohemi Gonzalez as she was, see this link. She will be missed:
For a firsthand account of the attack written far more poignantly than I could ever hope to write, see Isobel Bowdery’s Facebook post:
This is how I feel about religious crusades of violence: