Outpouring of Love for Nick Leslie, UC Berkeley Student Killed in France

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A UC Berkeley student lights a candle on Sproul Plaza during Monday's memorial for Nicolas Leslie, a junior killed in last week's terrorist truck attack in France. (Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

Hundreds of UC Berkeley students turned out for a campus vigil Monday to remember Nicolas Leslie, the Cal junior who was among the 84 people killed in last week's terrorist truck rampage in the French Riviera city of Nice.

A large photo of a smiling Nicolas Leslie was set up next to a bouquet of white roses, daisies and lilies on the steps of Sproul Hall.

Then, one by one, friends talked about Leslie’s love for the environment, especially the ocean. Friends remembered him calling the sea his “second home.”

Leslie, 20, was majoring in environmental science and was spending the summer in France as part of a study abroad program.

Mourners hold hands during a vigil in honor of Nicolas Leslie, a UC Berkeley student killed in last week's truck attack in Nice, France, on July 18, 2016.
Mourners hold hands on July 18, 2016, during a vigil in honor of Nicolas Leslie, a UC Berkeley student killed in last week's truck attack in Nice, France. (Stephen Lam/Getty Images)

Natasha Nicholson, a childhood friend, saw Leslie two months ago, soon after her high school graduation.

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"He was like, 'Hey, you graduated!' " Nicholson said. "And he picked me up -- such a big tall guy -- and spun me around and said, 'I’m so proud of you.' And that moment, that’s the kind of guy he was. He would make your day. He would stop just to see how you’re doing. He was honestly just the happiest guy you could ever meet."

A nearly identical vigil was held two weeks ago for 18-year-old sophomore Tarishi Jain. She was one of 20 hostages killed in a terrorist attack while studying abroad in Bangladesh.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks spoke Monday and called the two deaths devastating. But he added it would be a mistake to use them as a reason "to step away from our shared commitment to form a global community, to abandon hope for and belief in a better tomorrow, both here at Berkeley and of course across the world."

Senior Niki Dukellis, who read a poem during the vigil, said the university needs to continue its overseas study programs.

"The students abroad, I think they’re doing important work, and if they feel compelled to that, that is their choice," Dukellis said. "We should just celebrate and honor Nick Leslie’s memory because he is forging a path forward for all of us to open our hearts."

Leslie had just been accepted by UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business for the fall semester, and friends say he was hoping to change the world by developing businesses with a sense of social responsibility.