This sickness isolates people and that’s one of the worst things about it. None of her family could go with her to comfort her. People were not only dying from Ebola, they were dying from hopelessness. Photo by Katie Meyler published with permission from Sarah’s mother.
Letter to Sarah is written by Katie Meyler, a Time Person of the Year for being an Ebola Fighter in 2014. Sarah was a real girl that Katie met while working on the front lines to end Ebola. Katie spearheaded Partnership Schools for Liberia along with Liberia’s Minister of Education George Werner. There are now eight partners working on behalf of a better education system in Liberia. Today, September 5th, is the first day of school this year.
Meeting you was special. I will never forget it for the rest of my life. It was a super scary time, I know, but you were so strong and determined and your fierceness has stayed with me. I’m sorry that I told you that you were going to be okay. I didn’t know what else to say in such a scary moment and I was just trying to comfort you the best way I could. I know I lied. You were not okay.
When you stopped answering your phone while in the Ebola treatment unit, my heart stopped. I couldn’t believe the world lost such a precious little girl like you. I knew it was not your time to go. People around me tried to comfort me saying it’s all going to be okay; it wasn’t okay and it never was going to be. The world failed you, sweet girl. After you died I was not the same person. I knew I never would be, I didn’t want to be. I didn’t or couldn’t just go back to the way things were. I wasn’t going to allow the world to turn the page on you. Your life mattered.
Sarah walked down this hallway to the Ebola treatment unit and never came back. Her mom will never get to say goodbye.
I brought the news of your passing to your mom. Hands down, it was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. I couldn’t get the words out, I just looked at her, I dropped my head and I sobbed. She got the message and collapsed. After a lot of screaming and mourning, first right there with your mom and then alone with my head buried in my pillow for days, I vowed to do everything in my power to help Liberia fix the broken systems that allowed Ebola to take your life.
So here we are almost one and a half years after the world said goodbye to you. I know you have no grave — they had to cremate your body. There is no nameplate or wall to visit to remember you. So in memory of you, we are rebuilding the education system here in Liberia. I really mean it. I worked hard to support the Minister of Education for what became Partnership Schools for Liberia. This is for you and because of you. You will be remembered when children are in classrooms instead of working on the streets, you will be remembered when teachers show up on time everyday to teach and when kids graduate and they can actually read and write and lead Liberia. We all have to work together to make sure that what happened to you will never happen again. Your generation is where we can start to strengthen Liberia forever.
I hope that you are looking down at all that is going on right now. There is energy in the education system, people are paying attention and people have started to care. This year there will be 90 schools partnering with organizations to make them the best they can be! My organization More Than Me will run 6 schools this year and the goal is in the next 5 years, every child in Liberia will be safe, healthy and learning.
The world did not turn the page on you. They know your face, your name and your story, and they know that Liberia will never be the same because of you.
Love you fierce little girl, you give me strength.
With all my heart,