Campus & community, Campus news, Events at Berkeley

Community holds vigil for student, others killed in France

By Christopher Merchant

Hundreds of people gathered late Monday afternoon on Sproul Plaza to honor and remember Nicolas Leslie, who was killed last week in Nice, France. It was the second time this month the UC Berkeley campus mourned the loss of a student to terrorism.

Leslie, 20, was a junior in the College of Natural Resources and was planning to begin studies at the Haas School of Business this fall. He was studying in France as part of the campus’s Study Abroad program. Some 300 people gathered for yesterday’s vigil, which was organized by the Associated Students of the University of California.

“It is with deep sympathy and sincere gratitude that I wanted to extend my condolences and appreciation for all of you gathered here today, either physically or in spirit, to memorialize a life cut short by senseless terror,” said William Morrow, UC Berkeley student body president. “We as a campus are still reconciling our emotions after the loss of Tarishi Jain in Bangladesh a couple of weeks ago, and to lose another Bear in such a tragic way is absolutely heartbreaking.”

Three other Berkeley students were injured in the Bastille Day truck attack in Nice. Vladyslav Kostiuk, 23, a senior computer science major in the College of Letters and Science, and Daryus Medora, 21, both sustained broken legs. Diane Huang, 20, a senior majoring in environmental economics and policy in the College of Natural Resources, suffered a broken foot.

In total, 84 people were reported dead in the attack, with more than 200 reported injured.

“Today our hearts are broken once again,” said Chancellor Nicholas Dirks on the steps of Sproul Hall, speaking in front of the U.S. flag, the French flag and the flag of Leslie’s native Italy. “Today we reach out with sympathy and compassion to Nick’s friends and relatives, and particularly his immediate family, who have suffered an unimaginable loss that was confirmed only after days of agonizing uncertainty…

“In the wake of these horrific events I, like many of you, have looked within to reflect and to find the strength necessary to carry on. And, while I remain shaken and uncertain about what lies ahead, I am convinced that we, as a community, as a university, as a country, as humans, must not let these tragedies lead us to retreat from the world around us.”

Students mourn at a vigil for Nicolas Leslie, a student who was killed in the Bastille Day terrorist attack in Nice, France.

Students mourn at a vigil for Nicolas Leslie, a student who was killed in the Bastille Day terrorist attack in Nice, France. (Hulda Nelson, UC Berkeley photo)

Others also spoke in fond remembrance of Leslie. James Manriquez, a recent UC Berkeley graduate and fellow member of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, recalled his friend’s love for life and spending time in the water.

Natasha Nicholson Gaviria, a childhood friend from Del Mar, California, and recent UC Berkeley graduate, read a eulogy written by one of Leslie’s other childhood friends, Hunter Willoughby.

“If I knew I had 20 years to live, I would live them like Nick,” Gaviria said.

Ani Surumpudi, a close friend and fellow member of Net Impact Berkeley, a non-profit, student-run consulting group, recalled Leslie’s enthusiasm for hard work, teamwork and celebration of a job well done.

The Consul General of France in San Francisco, Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, also delivered a moving speech. Lebrun-Damiens said he had spent the previous four days reading about Leslie online and talking with those who knew him well.

“This is a day of sadness for all of us,” Lebrun-Damiens said. “Today the world misses Nicolas Leslie.”

During the vigil’s closing comments, Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Joseph Greenwell asked people in the audience to hold hands with their neighbors.

“As a community, we’ve lost a lot in a short amount of time,” said Greenwell, his voice shaking with emotion. “It’s in times like these that we need to come together as a community and support each other…

“Please take care of yourselves, please take care of each other and please remember Nick for the happy and gentle person he was.”

In the hour following the vigil, dozens of students embraced, wept and wrote messages on a letter to be sent to Leslie’s family.