Nohemi Gonzalez, 23, was killed in Friday's Paris attacks

By Tara Fowler
November 16, 2015 07:40 AM

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Hundreds of mourners gathered at California State University-Long Beach on Sunday to pay tribute to 23-year-old Nohemi Gonzalez, an American student who was killed in Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris.

Tim Mraz, Gonzalez’s boyfriend of nearly four years, couldn’t hold back tears as he spoke Sunday. “If you didn’t know her, she had a Pocahontas tattoo on her left arm. She always said I was her ‘John Smith,’ ” Mraz told the crowd, according to NBC Los Angeles. “She was a little firecracker.”

Tim Mrazis hugged during a memorial service for Nohemi Gonzalez in Long Beach
DAVID MCNEW/AFP/Getty

He added: “You’re always in my heart. I love you, baby.”

Gonzalez was one of 17 students attending Strate College of Design in Paris as part of a semester abroad program when she was gunned down at a bistro on Friday night. The attacks in Paris killed at least 129 people, according to French officials, following assaults at a concert hall, several restaurants and Stade de France.

The other 16 students studying in Paris with Gonzalez have been confirmed to be safe.

Cal State faculty members spoke at the vigil Sunday as well. “There are simply no words to express the profound grief and loss,” Martin Herman, design department chair, said. “She was so excited to be in Paris. May Nohemi’s voice, bright spirit, playfulness, ideals and hope continue to inspire and illuminate the department of design, her university family and all those she touched during her all too short time with us.”

Added Michael Laforte, a lecturer at Cal State Long Beach: “She brought joy, happiness and laughter to everybody she worked with.”

Over the weekend, Gonzalez’s former gym instructor, Sofiane Slaoua, told PEOPLE that the young student was “very pretty, very nice with people. She was one of those girls who likes life. When she came to the gym she would do everything in the workout.

“She was an optimist,” Slaoua said.

A second vigil is planned for Tuesday afternoon.

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