Maritza Barrera ’01 and Cesar Ramirez ’01

This was not the way Maritza Barrera ’01 wanted to spend the day with her boyfriend, Cesar Ramirez ’01.

It was his birthday, Aug. 13, 2003, and she had a plan, one that was about to be ruined. Cesar needed to drop off papers at LMU for his sister, and there they were — stuck in traffic on the 105 Freeway.

Maritza and Cesar’s time together seemed a rare commodity. They had been a couple since 1999, as students of biology. By 2003, Cesar was working as an optometrist in Oregon. Maritza was attending graduate school at UCLA. In their long-distance relationship, time was precious.

Maritza was not happy about Cesar’s excursion, a trek from Hacienda Heights to LMU. All her plans were being ruined. Her temper on the rise, she watched him fumble around in the glove compartment of his car. Cesar was feeling stressed, too. He had plans of his own, and Maritza’s sour mood wasn’t helping. But he managed to sneak the ring he was searching for into his pocket.

They parked in Hannon Lot. Martiza told him she’d wait in the car. Cesar needed her out of the car for his plan to work. He pleaded with her to go with him, and, finally, she relented. They walked up Alumni Mall, where they had spent much time together. There, in fact, between St. Robert’s and Malone Student Center, was where Maritza first told Cesar that she thought she might be falling in love with him.

As they reached that spot, facing Sacred Heart Chapel, Cesar stopped. He sat on a nearby bench and showed her, in Maritza’s words, “the most beautiful engagement ring.” Maritza’s anger was replaced by elation. She doesn’t remember walking back to the car.