A crowd of more than 100 gathered Monday to celebrate the life of junior Nick Leslie, who died in the terrorist attack in Nice, France, on Thursday. He was 20 years old.
Leslie’s death came less than two weeks after that of Tarishi Jain, another Berkeley undergraduate killed in another deadly act of terrorism abroad. Twice in 13 days, the Sproul steps became a makeshift stage for one microphone, three national flags and hundreds of attendees in mourning.
“It’s one more person gone and there’s not even a reason for it,” said Maddie Elias, a campus fourth-year student who attended the vigil despite not knowing Leslie personally. “It’s just a senseless attack.”
Leslie was a brother of Phi Gamma Delta and a senior associate of campus consulting group Net Impact. A student in the College of Natural Resources, Leslie had planned to enter into the Haas School of Business in the fall and pursue a career in sustainability.
At the vigil, Berkeley classmates and childhood friends remembered Leslie for his easygoing nature, his relentless compassion and his “work hard, play hard” attitude.
“He would make your day. He would stop just to see how you were doing,” said Natasha Nicholson, a childhood family friend of Leslie’s who spoke at the vigil. “He was the happiest guy you could ever meet, and I’m completely heartbroken.”
Ani Surumpudi, who worked closely with Leslie on projects for Net Impact, praised Leslie’s ability to excel both socially and professionally. Surumpudi remembers Leslie for his ability to light up a room and called him the best senior associate and the best friend he could have asked for.
The poster at the front of the stage wherein attendees were invited to write notes to Leslie’s family began to fill as soon as the vigil concluded. When the wind had begun to blow away the poster during the vigil, 20 attendees, some of whom had never met Leslie, rushed to put it back in place.
“I did not know him but he makes me proud to be a Cal Bear,” an unattributed note read.
During the vigil, James Manriquez, a fellow brother of Phi Gamma Delta, read a letter written by the fraternity’s president, Fisher Johnson.
In his letter, Johnson recounted asking his date to prom alongside Leslie. He also recalled running naked in the street together after finding out they had both been accepted to UC Berkeley, an experience they repeated after discovering they had been admitted to the Haas School of Business.
Johnson also described putting aside feelings of anger and vengeance toward those responsible for the death of his best friend in favor of compassion for others.
“They’ll never be able to win if we allow these events to make us love each other that much more,” Johnson’s letter said.