Prince Teah is 22 years old. He still remembers that he left school a long time ago. He also remembers his school: Jewel Howard Taylor Elementary School in New Kru Town.
“I was a little boy,” he says in an interview yesterday at the New Kru Town residence he shares with his older brother, Sam. “When my parents died, my schooling also died.”
Since then, Teah says he has simply lived on his own, and getting used to life on the streets. “I worked hard to survive,” he says, which was confirmed by a Nigerian businessman, Oga, who operates a restaurant near Point 4, on Bushrod Island, Monrovia.
“Prince has been a hard worker,” admits Oga, “but I don’t know him to engage in something like stealing.”
But on the morning of Thursday, January 28, Prince had walked a lady friend to her home in Caldwell.
“It was about 2 a.m.,” he says, “and I walked this girl to Caldwell beyond the new bridge.” He explains that he didn’t encounter anyone on the street on the way to the young lady’s house.
“I was coming back from Caldwell,” he says, and “when I crossed over the bridge, several young men rushed on me.”
The men, he says, “were armed with cutlasses and clubs. They asked me what I was doing there at that time of the morning.
“I told them about the girl I escorted to her house, but the men said I was lying and immediately they began to assault me with the clubs and the cutlasses.”
Prince, whose parents Helena Koffa and Samson Weah died when he was about four years old, said the next 20 minutes were the most horrifying moments of his life.
And as he tells it, it’s like a movie scene, with directors and actors, and the crowd watching as the cameras rolled.
“The men began to cut me with the cutlasses, and they took me near the Stockton Creek,” he said as he recalls ‘the night of all nights’ in his short life.
“Then I heard them tell me to put my hand on a table and I felt some hands grabbing my left hand and putting it on the table,” Prince explains. Since the tragic event happened more than one month ago, his emotions have deserted him; he doesn’t even cry anymore.
“They used the cutlass to cut off all five of my fingers on my left hand, that is after they cut my back, and I was bleeding,” Prince points out. “I am not a foreigner, and they did not catch me stealing or doing anything out of the way. They did not understand and refused to accept my explanation that I was simply passing through to go to New Kru Town. I am a Liberian and they are Liberians, but see what they did to me?”
Prince says the men decided to cut off the fingers of his right hand, and continued by methodically beating the fingers on his left hand.
“It was after that that they cut off a piece of my index finger,” he says. “My cries and tears and protest did not mean anything to these people.”
By now, Prince says, although he was bleeding all over, his abductors were not finished with him yet.
“They also cut my knees with the cutlass. And having satisfied themselves by the injuries they have inflicted on me, they threw me into an unfinished house,” Prince says.
“I knew I was dead. I was thrown away by my captors like a criminal who has been locked up and the keys thrown away.
“I regained consciousness and began to piece together the events of the last couple of minutes and then the reality set in. I began to understand where I was and what had happened to me.
“I thought about my mother, my father and brother, Sam, and my older sister, Juah…without any one to come to my rescue, and helpless as a result of losing too much blood, I slept and awoke around 7p.m.”
It was then that people in the area began to take notice of him, and many rushed to where he lay to investigate.
By then he was regaining some strength. In the crowd, he spotted a friend, a motorbike rider.
“I told him to go to my brother in Borbor Garage in New Kru Town and tell him what has happened to me.”
His brother Sam and other family members then rushed to the scene and took him to the JFK Medical Center.
“Doctors there received me and began to find a way to reattach my broken bones and fingers that had been violently severed.
“They also rejoined my knees; and after one month, I am able to walk, but as you can see, my left hand is useless to me,” Prince says, making a demonstration of how useless his hand has become.
Since then, Prince often asks himself, “Why do I always stay so late in the street?”
“I grew up in the street because when my parents died, I never had much help from older relatives.
“I have some uncles, but they are unable to support me, except my brother Sam that I am living with,” he said.
When asked: “Did your brother not ever talk to you about the dangers in staying out too late?” He smiled and said: “No.”
Prince regrets his situation and did not know what would have happened if the situation was reversed.
“The people who did it to me did not catch me stealing; they did not catch me hiding behind windows, or anything of that sort. I thought since they did not believe what I told them, they would keep me and verify the information.
“I regret being a Liberian since there is absolute lack of respect for human life here. Imagine anyone going through such a situation,” Prince said betraying no emotion. He appears to have some confidence, but he could not be specific about it.
However, he admits his life is over. “How do I live?” is a question that our reporter, tears in his eyes, could not answer.
Prince told the Daily Observer that though his life, to some extent, is over, “I don’t want another Liberian to go through such a painful experience again.”
He suggests that Chris Massaquoi, director of the Liberia National Police (LNP), should look at his story and let police officers supervise community watch teams that have mushroomed in the country.
“I know their intent is good,” Prince says, “but they must listen and respect life and allow procedure. They must also turn over anyone that they consider suspicious to police officers so that the law can take its course, if necessary.”
Looking at the stump on his left hand, Prince admits in a low voice, “I’m a victim.”
Prince’s agony mirrors those of thousands of Liberian youths who are left without parental direction and who simply live on the streets.
When asked: “Do you think Liberia your country has failed to protect you? Can you blame your parents?”
Prince admits, “Yes, my country has failed me; but for my parents, they did not live to see me grow or help me grow so I cannot say anything bad about their absence.”
Teachers at the Jewel Howard Taylor Elementary School remember Prince as a little boy with a mischievous smile. “He used to come to school every day. Some time later, he stopped coming,” says a former instructor.
“Without intervention, Prince and thousands like him end up the same way,” he says. “This is a tragic situation without hope for young people who are left to fend for themselves.”
Residents of Borbor Garage in New Kru Town regret Prince’s experience. “We need to change our behavior and stop accusing people and taking the law into our own hands,” one said.
Another says, “I think police officers are supposed to be in strategic positions in this country?”
Officers at the LNP headquarters in Monrovia would not comment on the story, but expressed regret of Prince’s experience.
“So that it does not happen again,” Prince says, “police officers should ensure that Caldwell is cleaned of people who have no remorse for doing wrong.”
For now Prince wants humanitarian organizations or any government agency to come to his aid to help him prepare for a meaningful life.