Like many undergraduates, Aida Magdaleno wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with the rest of her life until last week when she decided to be a social worker after taking some sociology classes.
‘Last weekend she told me that’s what she wanted to do, she wanted to help people,’ her sister Gabriella Magdaleno said. ‘Her passion was in helping other people.’
The nineteen-year-old sophomore CSUN student donated clothes, blood and money when she could. In fact she recently donated most of her clothes and was planning to go shopping this weekend, but never had the chance.
She was one of the 25 people who lost their lives on a train accident this past Friday, after a Metrolink engineer failed to heed a red light causing the passenger train to collide head-on with a freight train leaving 135 people injured as well.
Gabriella was waiting for her sister at the Moorpark station when the accident occurred and in the hours following the accident, hoped that her sister would come out alive. The following morning her worst fears were confirmed when she was notified that her sister had passed away.
‘It’s just so sad, so sad,’ Gabriella said in tears moments before attending a mass dedicated to her late sister and the others who lost their lives on Metrolink #111. The blue-eyed ambitious A-student never stopped dreaming or setting higher goals for herself, her sister said.
‘Aida really did want to make the world a better place in anyway she could,’ Gabriella said.
Her brother Juan Magdaleno, who was on the phone with Aida minutes before the crash agreed and knew that one day she would give back to the community just as much as it had given her.
‘She appreciated this country because it gave her the opportunity to study and get an education,’ he said.
Both sisters were attending CSUN this semester, Aida as an undergraduate and Gabriella as a graduate student. Gabriella plans on becoming a school counselor now more than ever.
‘She wanted to help people and now I’m going to make her dreams come true through me,’ her sister said.
Spanish words like ‘barril,’ or barrel, and ‘petr’oacute;leo,’ or petroleum, would make her sister laugh, Gabriella said. Playing with words and giving people nicknames was a favorite pastime of hers.
She couldn’t resist giving everyone she met a nickname, her sister said. In fact she gave herself the nickname ‘Hershey’ for no apparent reason other than she liked how it sounded.
‘She gave everybody nicknames, the babies, the adults even our parents, she would call me ‘G,” Gabriella said. ‘She was the wild one; she would come up with the most random things.’
Her cousin, Cecilia Allniz, agreed recalling nicknames she gave to her nieces and nephews like ‘Gerber’ and ‘Penny Gweny.’
‘If she saw that someone was having a bad day, even a complete stranger, she would do this funny dance with her hands or pretend to be pulling a rope,’ Allniz said. ‘Then she would come home and laugh about it.’
Aida changed her hair color and style so much that Allniz couldn’t remember what her original hair color was.
‘She had lots of styles…Aida was just a lot of fun,’ her cousin said. ‘I always told her girl make up your mind, but she never cared about what people thought about her.’
Her pink and black converse were Aida’s favorite shoes, Allniz said, who admitted she was always envious of what she liked to call Aida’s ‘Crest smile,’ referring to the brand of toothpaste.
‘I would always tell her she had the most perfect and beautiful smile that would make her cheeks go up very high,’ she said. ‘She had a tendency to look at someone in the eye, look away smile then look at them again and smile.’
Her emotions were just as random as her styles, Allniz said. Just as quickly as she would get angry she would forget about it, as she couldn’t stay mad at someone for long. Her sensitivity would set her apart, looking out for those less fortunate like the homeless or looking at a dead squirrel with empathy as she walked past it.
Her priority was always school and encouraged those around her to follow suit.
‘I’m in my senior year and she really wanted me to graduate from high school,’ Allniz said. ‘I feel like she’s going to be leading the way for me.’
While her roommate Michelle Do only knew her for a few weeks, Aida was one of the most compassionate people she met, she said.
‘Aida would always offer us food, she would always look for ways to help those around her,’ Do said. ‘She was always there to listen to me, we would talk until 2 a.m.’
Cynthia Mendez and Aida didn’t realize they were cousins until seventh grade, but became almost inseparable since.
‘She would make me laugh because even though she was getting A’s in a class she would always be worrying,’ Mendez said. ‘Everything she did had to be perfect.’
While some of her family was crying mourning her death this weekend, the sobs from the family trying to catch their breath made Mendez and her cousin’s laugh.
‘Aida had this thing when people cried and made a noise as they attempted to catch their breath she would start laughing, she though it sounded funny,’ Mendez said. ‘She would apologize for doing it, but she couldn’t help it.’
Aida loved scary movies so much that she would sometimes scare herself, Mendez said, recalling an incident when they were driving and their van got a flat tire. Leaving them stranded in a dark lonely road without cell phone service.
‘We would be looking at the damage trying to figure out what to do and then she would say something like ‘What if the guy from Wrong Turn comes out’. Then we would jump in the van, lock it and stay inside before going out again,’ Mendez said. ‘Eventually we made our way home, we were scared but we joked about it afterwards.’
Aida always loved to dance, said ex-boyfriend Daniel Diaz, 22, of Moorpark. One of her dreams was to be a backup dancer in a music video he said.
‘She loved old school and oldies,’ Diaz said, who got a tattoo with Aida’s name on his forearm. ‘Aida had a brother and a sister who went to college and she was always trying to keep up with them, she was extremely ambitious.’
Gabriela realized this when her younger sister watched her walk across the stage with her bachelor’s degree.
‘She told me, ‘I’m going to be in your shoes in three years, watch,” Gabriella said. ‘Because of her I knew I wanted to be a school counselor.’
Her background and struggles should be an inspiration to all, her sister said. Aida came from a low-income family, whose father supported the family picking lemons in the fields of Ventura County. Even though her parents couldn’t help fully help her financially to go to college Aida made her way there.
‘She was never embarrassed about what our dad did in fact she would say it with pride,’ Gabriella said. ‘Aida was always very independent, she never looked down on public transportation she would take the train to go to school, I mean I never took the train.’
When people remember her, she said, Aida will be remembered with a smile.
‘Aida really wanted to bring some comfort to my parents, she wanted to buy them a house, she wanted to do so much for them,’ Gabriella said in sobs. ‘She was the princess.’
University Counseling Services is located in Bayramian Hall, Suite 520, and may be reached at 818.677.2366.