Durham, N.C. — One year ago, the largest Ebola outbreak in world history rampaged across West Africa, hitting Liberia the hardest.
More than 500 native Liberians call the Triangle home, and nearly three months after the country was declared Ebola-free, they came together to give thanks.
The name Liberia tends to evoke an image of despair to the wider world. But in truth, the name rings with freedom. Liberia, which means "Land of Freedom," was settled by freed American slaves.
At the People Christian Church in Durham Sunday, the people celebrated Independence Day for their native country.
"And now Liberia has begun to turn the page," said McSwain Forkoh “We were declared Ebola-free.”
This time last year, the Ebola virus was ravaging Liberia and its neighbors in West Africa. Liberia suffered the highest death toll – an estimated 4,700 people.
Forkoh heads the Ebola Task Force for the Liberian Community Association of the Triangle. Even though Liberia is Ebola-free, it is still a nation beset with challenges.
"There are a lot of children that have been orphaned as a result of Ebola,” Forkoh said. “That doesn't get a lot of press, but that is a real serious social problem now."
The Ebola task force rallied local hospitals and health departments, sending more than 40 containers of medical supplies to Liberia.
"We have to always continue to look over our shoulders and we still need the world's help.” said Liberian Lowell Dargbeh. “It was their help that we were able to come so far.”
Both Dargbeh and Forkoh say Liberians are now more acutely aware of how to protect themselves.
"People are going on with their normal lives, but just staying vigilant every day," Forkoh said.