By Monica Viera (Guest Writer)
Monica Viera and Nohemi Gonzalez attended California State University Long Beach together and grew a close bond before Gonzalez was fatally shot by ISIS in the 2015 Paris attacks. Gonzalez’ family is suing Google for promoting content that spread ISIS’ agenda and radicalized people to join the terrorist group, and the case will be heard in front of the Supreme Court of the United States in their upcoming term. After hearing that the case was headed for the Supreme Court, Viera decided write about her grief for the Daily Forty-Niner.
I was in a psych ward with festive zig-zag carpet, like at the movie theater, when she came up. Everything was fine until my friend, Brandon, a man with glasses and bleached blonde hair like me told me that he would “love to go to Paris.” The others agreed. “It seems so amazing,” they said.
Tears spilled from my eyes and they quickly asked me what was wrong. Empathy was easy to feel from patient to patient when we were in such a raw environment like this.
“I once told my best friend to go to Paris,” I admitted, wiping tears from my cheeks. “She went. With my blessing, she went. And, she was sort of torn up about going because she had just gotten into this serious relationship with her then-boyfriend. But you could see the spark in her eye when she talked about Paris. Kind of like with you guys,” I motioned around the table.
“So, I told her to go. And that her boyfriend would be here when she came back. Or they could work it out long distance or something. But then she was killed by ISIS.”
“What?” Brandon asked, incredulously.
“It was the Paris attacks. 2015. She was at the restaurant that was attacked by ISIS and their AK-47s. I’ve never forgiven myself for giving her that pep talk that made her go.”
“It’s not your fault,” my roommate said.
“Yeah,” another friend agreed. “You have to forgive yourself.”
The moment was interrupted when a nurse loudly announced that he had to take our vitals.
I continued to softly weep and look down, back at that crappy movie theater-like carpeting. I remembered all the memories with Nohemi in the Long Beach State dorms back in 2011, like the times she and I would dress up and go to Club Sevilla downtown or when we worked out in the newly built gym on campus.
Even our fight we both, then, had a sassy sort of way of taking on life. Hers was gone because she was dead. Mine was gone, partly because she was dead. I started to cower. I lived life in fear and anticipated things going wrong. My trauma from the loss of my best friend got in the way of my life.
I’ll always remember that last conversation we had when she had gotten an apartment outside the dorms, next to that Trader Joe’s by CSULB.
We had just gone shopping there and were preparing to make a whole bunch of spaghetti to last us a week. While we were sitting on her couch, she spoke nervously but excitedly about Paris.
She was just a young girl with the whole world in front of her. She had just gotten into Long Beach State’s design program. Her intelligence and fierceness towards life were what attracted people to her, but she was deprived of the life ahead of her by ISIS.
After reflecting on my hospital stay and the last time I mumbled her name, I realized I had to write some sort of tribute to Nohemi to get her name out there and release some of the guilt that riddled me.
I want Nohemi back. We all do. A young girl’s light was taken, but keeping her memory alive will keep it burning.