The words at the bottom of the wooden frame that held the picture of a dark-haired young woman with a tantalizing smile read: “DARE TO BEGIN THE JOURNEY.”
The Manteca woman with the sun-dappled face is Ramina Badal, the 21-year-old who was swept over the 317-foot Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park Tuesday, along with two other friends, while posing for a photograph against the picturesque but perilous backdrop. The three are all presumed dead.
The younger daughter of Tony and Virginia Badal of Manteca was set to graduate in six months from nursing school at the University of San Francisco, her aunt Carmen said Wednesday. She did not give her last name but said she is the sister of Tony Badal. She was one of several relatives and friends who gathered at the Badal family’s home in East Manteca to offer their condolences Wednesday evening.
Carmen described her niece as a people person who always liked to get involved and help others, which is why she wanted to be a nurse.
“She’s involved in everything. Every time she sees you, she always gives you a hug. She is a loving person. She loves everybody,” said Carmen, still talking in the present tense about her young niece.
Her words echoed the effervescent smile of the young woman with the free-flowing long hair in the three pictures she showed to Gabe Alvarado, a co-worker of Tony Badal for the last 10 years at the Burnside Body Shop in Modesto. The two men are also very close friends.
Alvarado said he heard about the terrible news when he went to work Wednesday morning. “Tony didn’t show up for work. That’s when my boss told me about what happened,” said Alvarado who drove to Manteca after work Wednesday before going home hoping to talk to the Badal family.
“I wanted to give him my condolences,” said Alvarado.
“I talked to him (on the phone) this morning,” he said, but given the circumstances, the conversation was brief.
“He is really a good man, and he has a good family; very nice family. I’ve known them for 10 years,” said Alvarado.
The two families got together off and on through the years during holidays such as Christmas, and that’s how Alvarado knew the Badals’ two girls. Alvarado said Ramina is the younger of the two daughters.
Carmen said Virginia Badal works at the language institute in Monterey.
Alvarado said he was deeply shaken when he heard the news about his friend’s daughter. “I got six kids – four boys and two girls – the youngest is two years old and the oldest is 21. So (the news) really hurt me,” Alvarado said after taking a picture of Ramina’s framed photograph with his cell phone.
According to Alvarado, Tony Badal was also a pastor and is actively involved at the Assyrian church that his family attends in Ceres.
“He helps a lot at his church; he does work in the office,” Alvarado said.
According to the Associated Press story, the three young students who were swept over the Vernal Falls in Yosemite Tuesday were all students who belonged to the Mar Gewargis Parish in Ceres. The other two students were identified as Hormiz David, 22, of Modesto, and Ninos Yacoub, 27, of Turlock. David was studying music production at Modesto Junior College, and Yacoub was a chemistry student at California State University in Stanislaus. Badal attended the University of San Francisco and had hoped to become a doctor.
Carmen said her niece was part of a group of family and friends that went on a field trip to Yosemite National Park on Tuesday. Among those in the group were other family members of the Badal family.
According to the Associated Press story, the horrifying incident happened when a man and a woman crossed a metal barricade above the 317-foot Vernal Fall and made their way over slick granite to a rock in the middle of the swift Merced River.
As the horrified people watched, Ramina slipped and one of the men reached for her. As he did so, he also fell in. Another man in the group of about 10 people then tried to help but he, too, fell into the water. The horrified onlookers could only watch helplessly as the rushing water swept all three students over the edge of the waterfall.
All three victims are said to be part of a close-knit community of Christians from the Middle East who have been settling in California’s Central Valley during the past century. The Ceres church is part of the Assyrian Church of the East. A prayer service was planned Wednesday evening at the Mar Gewargis Parish in Ceres for the three victims.