For 20-year-old Salma Ramirez, the tragedy is unbearable.
The path forward is unimaginable.
On Saturday, Salma Ramirez lost her father, Miguel, and her brother, Michael, in a fatal car wreck. Her mother, Maria, is hospitalized with multiple broken bones and a neck injury.
Now, Salma Ramirez, a junior at the University of Denver, is planning a double funeral service for her father and brother while overseeing her mother’s medical needs and worrying about the family’s bills, said Jacqueline Jeske, a family friend.
“She’s trying to be stronger than anyone ought to have to be at 20,” Jeske said.
On Saturday evening, Miguel Ramirez and his children had picked up Maria Ramirez from her job at a local hotel and were driving home to Thornton. The family’s Honda CRV was struck head-on by a car traveling the wrong way on Interstate 25, the Colorado State Patrol reported.
Miguel Ramirez died at the scene, and Michael Ramirez was pronounced dead at Denver Health medical center. Maria is still recovering at a hospital. Salma is sore and bruised but was not hospitalized, Jeske said.
Kimberly Rodriguez Roldan, 24, of Denver was driving the Jeep that struck the Ramirez’s CRV. She also was hospitalized for injuries she suffered in the wreck. The cause remains under investigation.
On Tuesday, Jeske, who is from Snowhomish, Wash., met with the media to speak on behalf of the Ramirez family. Her daughter, Claire Jeske, is Salma Ramirez’s roommate, and the two families had become friends since their daughters moved in together during their freshman year.
When they met, Miguel Ramirez had assured the Jeske family that he would look out for their daughter, Claire Jeske, while she attended college in Denver. Since then, the families have met for dinner whenever the Jeskes are in town, and they play cards and board games with each other at their daughter’s apartments.
“Miguel said, ‘She will be our second daughter,’” Jeske said.
The Ramirez family was known for being religious, generous and dedicated to each other, Jeske said. The Ramirez parents worked hourly-wage jobs and were of modest means. But that didn’t stop them from giving to others. Miguel Ramirez was respected in his community, and friends and co-workers sought his advice and mentorship, she said.
“This is a family that is deeply connected in the community and lives a life of quiet service in small ways to all they know,” Jeske said. “This example was set by Miguel, who is known for his hard work ethic, generosity and absolute dedication to his family.”
Miguel, 47, and Maria Ramirez had been together since their early 20s. The family attend St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church.
“Anyone who spent any time at all with them saw a family whose deepest foundation was one of great affection and respect,” Jeske said.
Michael Ramirez, a junior at the Denver Center for International Studies, was generous, funny and had a soft spot for animals, Jeske said. He also was involved in sports.
“He was the kind of young man who would loan another kid lunch money when he had none to spare,” Jeske said.
Michael Ramirez was planning to go to college and recently had spent a weekend at his sister’s apartment to get a feel for college life, she said.
Salma Ramirez also attended Denver Center for International Studies and returned there as a college student to mentor younger students, Jeske said. She works on campus at DU, and her goal was to become an FBI agent.
Now, that dream is in jeopardy as Salma Ramirez must decide whether she can continue her education while supporting her mother. At the moment, she is the only family member capable of working and is worrying about rent, utilities and medical bills. The young woman is reeling from the tragedy and the pressure, Jeske said.
“Maria’s heart and hope for the future is broken, and Salma is overwhelmed by the many new responsibilities she is facing,” Jeske said. “They cannot imagine how their lives will be without Miguel and Michael.”
Still, Salma Ramirez found a way to comfort Jeske on Tuesday morning before she met the media on the family’s behalf. She gave her roommate’s mother a handkerchief that had been handmade by her grandmother.
“It’s that kind of small generosity,” Jeske said. “They don’t have a lot to share but they share everything they’ve got.”
How to help
Friends have started a fundraiser for the family on the Go Fund Me website.