‘Doing it for Duir’: What it means to be a leader

On April 6, 2013, likely the most wonderful person I’ve ever met was stabbed to death. He was a friend, a son, a brother — and he was a Seawolf. I believe I was one of the last people to see him, and I want to tell you my story — his story, what happened in his final minutes.

The day was strange. There was barely any snow on the ground when I woke that morning, but when I left my office at 6:06 p.m., there was snow everywhere. On my way to the bus stop, I texted a photo of the weather to my friend out of state to show him how odd Alaska weather is.

The snow was collecting in dense piles on my head, and the buses were running monumentally late.

My phone died at 6:42. A few minutes afterward, a car on the farther side of the two-way stopped in the middle of the road and the window rolled down. The driver’s face turned and looked right at me.

It was a guy named Mabil Duir. We called him Mo. He wrote for The Northern Light from time to time and frequently stopped by to visit the staff.

He asked, “Hey, are you okay? Do you need a ride?”

Although I was cold and snow was piled visibly on my head, I didn’t want to hassle him. So I said no.

Mo said okay, and he flipped a U-turn and went in a new direction. He drove off and was stabbed less than 20 minutes later.

Just 20 minutes later. And he was pronounced dead exactly 45 minutes after that.

I didn’t find out until about 4 p.m. the next day. I was standing at a bus stop to go to work and saw it on my phone’s news feed.

This can’t be real, I thought. And my mind went back to just 21 hours before, when he asked me if I needed a ride. I rarely accept rides, just because my refusal to drive is a personal choice and I don’t want to bother anyone else with the choices I privately make. Is it pride? I’m unsure.

My body flooded with scalding what-ifs.

 

I blamed myself for a year afterward. Memories of his funeral followed me for weeks — the sight of his mother at the funeral remains burned on my brain. Mo had come from Sudan as a refugee, and in refuge he found more danger. His mother’s first steps on American soil were to mourn her lost son; she could barely stand as crippling sobs thundered from her frail body at the memorial service.

The effects of his passing rippled through UAA. We all felt it because we all knew him. There was no way you couldn’t have. He was driven. He had so many ideas and not enough hands to grab at them.

Mo exemplified what it meant to be a leader and a friend. He said hello to strangers. He offered help to those who didn’t ask for help. His mind was exploding with ideas and solutions for how to help several groups of people. He petitioned and wrote letters to bring attention to the issues that he felt were important to UAA and the Anchorage community.

The memorial service held for him at UAA drew a crowd that the Student Union could barely contain. The north and south cafeterias were packed with people. Music played in his memory, and students, staff and faculty all spoke of his legacy. The second floor railing was tightly populated with people looking down on the event, and local news took photos.

Not long after, USUAA student government passed legislation to form the Mabil Duir Leadership Scholarship, which awards five $1,000 scholarships to student leaders each semester.

Though it’s been two years since Mo’s passing, his memory still lives on and inspires us to be leaders every day in our own way. Positive change does not always require the might of movers and shakers — it can also flourish slowly in a kind smile or gesture. Mo was not content with just “getting by” at UAA. He wanted to make Anchorage, and the world, a better place by the time he was done here.

And that he did.

The last thing Mo ever did for anyone was an act of kindness. And I am honored by our brother’s spirit to have shared in that moment.