Press Herald: Finding a new family at St. Joe's

Press Herald: Finding a new family at St. Joe's

Click here to read original article - written by Portland Press Herald Staff Writer Steve Solloway

STANDISH – Krubiel Workie had a date with his sister that night in July. She would pick him up at Denver International Airport and he'd take her to the movies. "Dark Knight Rises," the newest of the Batman films was playing.

Workie was flying home after a 48-hour visit to Saint Joseph's College. He was excited. He loved the people he met and this neat campus on the Shore of Sebago Lake. He was a 6-foot-6, 205-pound basketball player with a sweet outside shot searching for a place where he could feel comfortable but challenged. He believed his search was over.

His flight west was delayed by weather. By the time he climbed into his sister's car it was too late to catch the movie. On their way home, two police cars zoomed past, lights flashing.

"In my neighborhood, you've got the drugs, the killings. It is the 'hood. We see the police all the time. I didn't think much about it."

Workie fell asleep under his family's roof in a Denver suburb called Aurora. "I woke up the next morning and had a hundred missed calls and text messages asking if I was all right. I was confused."

The plane had landed. He was in his own bed. Then his mother told him the news. A gunman had killed 12 and wounded some 50 others in theater No. 9 at the Aurora Century 16 complex near the Workie home. Workie and his sister would probably have been in those seats when the shooting started.

"I didn't know anyone who died. I have a friend who was hit in the chest and leg. My cousin was in the theater next to No. 9 and could hear the shooting and the screaming. I had another cousin who went to buy a ticket but they were sold out. You hurt for the people who were hurt.

Back in Maine, Rob Sanicola had uneasy flashbacks when he learned of the shootings. He's the men's basketball coach at Saint Joseph's and Workie had wowed him with his character and maturity. "I was nervous. I kept looking for something that was wrong about him. I couldn't find anything.

Before he left Maine, Workie had talked about watching the "Dark Knight Rises." Three months earlier, Sanicola lost Clark Noonan in an early morning car crash. He won't forget the phone call, the terrible news and the anguish. Was he dealing with another loss?

He wasn't. Workie has been on campus for less than two months but already has found a new family. His teammates call him K.B. Maybe they should stick with Krubiel, an Ethiopian name that means "guard of God." The timing of Workie's arrival, so soon after Noonan's passing, has been noticed. Their personalities aren't a match, but in some ways are similar.

"I just believe everything happens for a reason," said Workie, whose father walked across Ethiopia to enter Sudan. He was fleeing the political repression that had killed another family member. He eventually found his way to the Ethiopian community in Denver.

Workie has several YouTube videos tagged Bless 1. "I feel blessed that I get to follow my dream. I feel blessed that I can wake up and talk to my mom and talk to my father. It's how I was raised, to feel these blessings."

St. Joseph's is Workie's fourth college. After attending community colleges in Wyoming and Louisiana, he was recruited by former University of Maine assistant coach Ed Kohtala (now at Bangor High). Workie didn't have the transferrable credits to be admitted to Maine. On Kohtala's advice, Workie transferred to Kansas Wesleyan. That wasn't a good fit.

Chad Dixon, a friend who went to the University of Maine at Machias before transferring to Emory University, suggested Saint Joseph's. "After playing for grimy coaches who don't care about you, I was still a little skeptical. But after a week here, it feels like I've been here for years."

Sanicola hasn't announced his starting lineup but Workie, a broadcasting major, has been playing at power forward in practice. The player knows his shot-making has opened eyes but says he can't rest. His meandering path has taught him patience and faith. He keeps his sights on where he wants to go.

"I still have family in Ethiopia (many around the capital, Addis Ababa.) "I would love to go back when I'm a success. I want to help people there."

Workie has still not seen "Dark Knight Rises." Neither has his sister. "We don't really talk about it."

Like he said, everything happens for a reason.