Proviso East High School senior Kerolos Sam, who has been accepted into UIC. He plans to become a doctor — something he promised his mother, Nermeen (pictured below right), before she died. | Photo below left, Sam at Nermeen’s gravesite. || Kerolos Sam/Facebook
Wednesday, February 22, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
There is always more where crime stories and mugshots come from. This mugshot in particular, of a May 17, 2013 story in the Chicago Tribune headlined, “Man charged with killing wife fit for trial, judge rules,” holds a universe of meaning that might as well be a mystery to the reader.
The mugshot, of a 47-year-old man named Bahaa Sam, hangs just to the right of the article. Sam is gazing at something or someone. What exactly? One knows not. One may never know. He doesn’t quite appear to be present for the mugshot’s taking. His mind is off somewhere beyond the police station.
One day, perhaps soon, Sam’s oldest son Kerolos — an aspiring doctor and a student of forgiveness — may unlock the mystery of his father’s gaze and use the answer to save lives.
Kerolos is an 18-year-old senior at Proviso East High School. He has a 4.3 GPA and is a three-sport athlete, the president of his student class council and a member of the National Honors Society.
He was accepted into Harvard University, but chose the University of Illinois at Chicago instead; partly, Sam said, because UIC will pay for his medical school once he’s done with his undergraduate premedical studies. Another reason, he said, is to be near his three younger siblings.
Since Bahaa murdered his wife, Nermeen, four years ago, Kerolos has stepped into the role of protector and positive model. He has also become something of a proselytizer for the sanctity and the meaning of life, intimate as he is with life’s frailties.
“Everyone is put here for a reason,” Kerolos said. “God has a purpose and a plan for everyone and to take that away is horrible.”
Bahaa was arrested “just before midnight” on Dec. 19, after someone discovered his wife’s body near their Tinley Park home. Nermeen had suffered “multiple injuries due to assault.”
“The couple had a history of domestic disputes,” the article reads.
But when everyone, from relatives to close friends, gathered at the police station the day of Nermeen’s murder, no one imagined that the signs would lead here, Kerolos said.
He remembers the day vividly.
“When it happened, I was at school,” Kerolos recalls. “My mom was supposed to come and pick me up from school because I had a dentist appointment. I was paged down to the office, but my mom wasn’t there. A police officer was there. I was shocked.”
Kerolos said that the police brought him and his younger siblings to a local station, where they sat for several hours before he noticed his grandmother and other relatives crying.
“The police asked me to sit down,” Kerolos recalled. “They told me, ‘We’re sorry to tell you, but your father killed your mother. I burst out into tears. I wanted to throw a chair across the room.”
Kerolos said that he insisted on seeing his little brother, who police had offered a change of clothes earlier in the day.
“They had to change his clothes because there was blood all over them,” Kerolos said. “I just hugged him and sat there in that room with him for about an hour.”
After that harrowing day in December, Kerolos and his three younger siblings were separated and placed into foster homes. That’s how Kerolos ended up in the home of Lora Sutton, of Broadview.
“My foster mom is the best thing to happen to me since my mom passed away,” he said. “If it wasn’t for her pushing me, I wouldn’t have made it through high school. It takes someone holding you up and pushing you up, telling you that can keep going on. She knew I had all the right qualities and the potential and she brought them out of me.”
Before Nermeen died, Kerolos said, he promised his mother that he would become a doctor. He wants to become a cardiologist, empowered, ironically, to fix hearts. In some ways, albeit metaphorically, he has partially fulfilled his ambitions.
The first heart Kerolos Sam has fixed has been his own.
“I’m very big in church, where I’ve learned to forgive,” he said, adding that since the murder, he’s been in communication with Bahaa. “I haven’t forgotten, but I’ve forgiven him for his actions.”
Kerolos said that his siblings have, like him, thrived despite the circumstances. He said that they’ve all benefited from regular counseling and supportive foster parents.
“God took care of us in that way,” he said. “That’s one of the things I’m thankful for, regardless of what happened. God was always there for us.”
Kerolos has used his own tragedy to inform his thinking about the world, particularly about the outbreak of gun violence in the Chicago area.
“One big reason for the violence is hatred,” he said. “People have a lot of hate built up for other people. If we support people and forge bonds with each other, we can cut the violence. We have to start with young people, though. The kids are the future, so we need to start with them.”
Kerolos said that he would tell young people seeking to thrive in adversity to “never, ever give up on your dreams.”
“Don’t ever let someone tell you you can’t do something, no matter how hard the situation,” he said,” no matter how close you are from the ground. If you’re still above it, keep moving.” VFP
Kerolos was recently accepted to perform a medical internship in Los Angeles, California from June 28 to July 6. He’s trying to raise money for the trip and so has started a GoFundMe account. Click here to support him.