A 23-year-old New Yorker who worked as a software engineer was one of the eight people killed in Tuesday’s terror attack in Lower Manhattan.
Nicholas Francis Cleves is being remembered by family and friends as a “sweetheart” who was invested in his work in the tech industry. Cleves lived in West Village and was thought to be riding his bike on the West Side Highway pedestrian/cyclist lane when police say 29-year-old Sayfullo Saipov drove a rental truck through people at a high speed.
Saipov was shot by officers after he got into an accident with a school bus and exited shouting “God is great” in Arabic. He was charged in federal court Wednesday with one count of material support to a terrorist organization and violence of a motor vehicle.
The terror attack was the first one with fatalities in the United States since September 11, 2001. Many victims of the October 31 attack are being remembered by the community members, friends and family members for the lives they lived.
Cleves is originally from Boston, but lived with his mother on Greenwich Street in New York City. He was the lone person from New York who died in the attack.
Here’s what you need to know about him:
Cleves Graduated From College Last Spring
According to his LinkedIn account, Cleves graduated from Little Red School House (LREI)/Elizabeth Irwin High School in 2012, where he was the editor of the school newspaper and taught a web-programming class. He also served as a history tutor, was a member of the robotics club and did camera work for theater productions at the school.
LREI director Phil Kassen posted to Facebook that Cleves attended the school from Kindergarten through 12th grade and was a part-time member of the staff
“He was the most decent, kindest human being, and just the nicest person to have around,” Kassen wrote in his tribute.
After high school, Cleves enrolled in classes at Skidmore College, a liberal arts school in Saratoga Springs. He graduated in spring 2016 with a computer science major and a minor in physics. At Skidmore, he worked as a private math tutor.
Upon learning that Cleves was one of the eight people that was killed, Skidmore President Philip A. Glotzbach released a statement sending the university’s thoughts and prayers with his family. He said that counselors have been made available if any students need help.
Read the full statement below:
An incident of terrorism that takes the lives of innocent people anywhere in the world touches each of us in our fundamental humanity. But the effect is more pronounced — and far more personal — when our community is directly linked to such a horrendous event.
I am deeply saddened to inform you that yesterday’s truck attack in New York City took the life of a recent Skidmore graduate, Nicholas Cleves ’16. He was 23 years old and living in New York, working as a software engineer, analyst, and web developer. At Skidmore, Nicholas was a Computer Science major and Physics minor, and studied Italian. He also worked as an IT Help Desk assistant and astronomy tutor.
Our hearts go out to Nicholas’s mother, Monica Missio, who is a member of the Skidmore class of 1981, the other members of his family, and his closest friends. At moments such as these, we realize anew how powerless are our words in the face of profound grief. Even so, we reach out to offer our thoughts and prayers, along with the hope that knowing that others are also touched by this loss may provide at least some small measure of comfort.
For anyone who needs support, Counseling Services may be reached at 518-580-5555. As a reminder, all employees may utilize the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which may be reached at 518-793-9768. Wilson Chapel is open from 9:00–11:00 p.m. today; 8:00 a.m.–2 p.m. Thursday; and 12:00–2:00 p.m. and 6:30–10:30 p.m. Friday.
When confronted by a seemingly endless series of tragic and absurd events, we naturally react first with sadness and then anger, and those emotions motivate us to take action to confront such senseless threats to public safety. However, our best actions — whether individual or political ones — are guided not just by emotion but much more by reason. As a college community especially, we need to reflect not just on the acts of violence but on their causes and, above all, on the most effective ways to prevent them in the future.
Ultimately, we must retain our faith in the future – of our nation and the world. In commenting on New York City’s decision to hold yesterday’s Halloween Parade as planned, as a symbol of normalcy and determination, NBC commentator Peter Howell praised the City’s commitment to remain “defiantly optimistic.” I hope we can embrace this attitude ourselves, remaining defiantly optimistic, even when challenged by events such as the needless death of a promising young member of the Skidmore family. The future, ultimately, is what we make it to be. And we must remain committed to this essential work.
In 2015, Cleves traveled abroad to Florence, Italy for a summer of learning digital photography. On the trip, he learned to speak Italian while performing coursework on digital and darkroom photography.
Cleves was a big fan of video games, and served as the captain of his school’s Defense of the Ancients 2 team. Many posts to Facebook include comments about video games he was excited to play, or issues in the tech industry that were close to him.
Cleves also had an on-campus job at Skidmore as an IT help desk assistant. He was in charge of helping those on campus “resolve a wide variety of technical problems,” he wrote on his LinkedIn.
“From a young age I have been deeply interested in computers, gadgets, video games, and programming as an art form,” he wrote. “This transitioned into building computers, programming games, and configuring my own server at home.”
Cleves Spent Countless Hours Coding Programs & Building a Computer
“The project required everyone in the class to choose a game of ‘perfect’ information and implement it in a programming language of their choice,” he wrote before describing the process of making it. “I choose Reversi (marketed as Othello by Mattel) and wrote all the components in Java.”
One of his favorite projects was making Balance, a water-cooled computer he spent hundreds of hours creating.
“This was a project that I put a tremendous amount of research and effort into,” Cleves wrote. “After months of reading forums, reviews, and a lot of Reddit I decided on a color scheme, a design and the list of components I would be using. Over the course of a week during one winter vacation I toiled away with tubing, compression fittings, water blocks and computer components.”
Cleves Worked as a Software Engineer
During his senior year, Cleves interned as a software engineer for Unified Digital Group, LLC., his LinkedIn said. After a successful internship, Cleves was hired on full-time as a software engineer/analyst in May 2016. His duties at the company included developing web applications and researching different technologies for clients.
“What is important to me, in my future endeavors, is working with people of diverse backgrounds in life and technology,” he wrote on his LinkedIn account. “I have been growing my experience outside of academics as a Software Engineer, Analyst and Web Developer — focusing on all layers of the software stack. I am eager to bring my experience to a cutting-edge tech company.”
Family Was Something That Was Always Important to Cleves
Family was something that was very important to Cleves, as indicated in several Facebook posts.
In May 2013, he posted an old photo of him standing next to his father in 2013 with the caption: “I love you Daddy.”
A post one month earlier was him with his mother, Monica Missio, along with the caption: “(love) Mommy! I owe everything to this beautiful person!” His mother followed with the comment: “I’m the lucky one! You’re the love of my life!”
Missio is a native New Yorker and is the founder and creative director at of CX Design, a boutique lighting design company. She also went to Skidmore, her Facebook says, and she graduated with a degree in art.
His Mom Posted Tributes to Victims of Terror Attacks in the Past
In November 2015, after the terrorist attack on the Bataclan Theatre in Paris, Missio posted a link to an article by the BBC. The story was about a man whose wife died in the attack, and he read a letter which went viral about “not giving you the gift of hating you” to the attackers. The Paris attack killed 137 people and injured 413 others. Responsibility for the terror attack was claimed by the Islamic State.
In 2013 after the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon, Missio posted a tribute to the many victims and their families.
“I wish to extend my love and support to my family and friends in Boston and to those who were affected by the unspeakable tragedy,” she wrote. “My deepest love to all.”
Cleves Frequented a Deli & Employees Remembered Him as a Kind-Hearted Person
An employee at a deli close to where Cloves worked remembered him as being “warm and friendly” to The New York Post.
“He’s absolutely lovely, he was a sweetheart, warm and friendly,” Dianne told the news outlet. “There are some people who are just good, and he was.”
One of Cleves’ friends remembered him to ABC 7’s Darla Miles, saying that he was a kind person.
“He would pet every dog,” the friend told Miles.
A person believed to be a former teacher remembered Cleves on Facebook from when he performing science experiments in elementary school and hanging with friends.
Another former professor of Cleves’ remembered him on Facebook as a “very nice, kind and sweet person.”
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