The overwhelming sadness and feeling of isolation to handle the situation alone, after the tragic loss of hundreds in Sierra Leone due to the mudslide in the early morning hours of August 14, was ‘eased a bit’ when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her Sierra Leonean counterpart attended the mass burial of 300 victims in words of healing.
For Sierra Leoneans, seeing the President of Liberia in their country, despite knowing that she will be leaving power shortly, was enough for them to move towards coping with their tragic loss.
Upon her arrival, she met with thousands of people looking up to her for answers, hope, help, relief, aid and hoping that the supremacy that has been vested in her as Africa’s first female president, will come in handy to help them come to terms with what had happened.
Like with the EBOLA epidemic, they said, President Sirleaf made sure that all of her donors were funding Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.
“This mudslide was worse than Ebola or anything you can imagine,” stated a Sierra Leone resident.
“The way she came in to help, we know that the Liberian President will come again to help us once more,” added Michaela Sulla, a Sierra Leonean actress, and journalist.
The Government of Sierra Leone along with the country’s Inter Religious Council declared seven days of fasting and three days of mourning on August 18, which ended Monday, August 28, in remembrance of those lost and those still left with the dreadful memory.
It was evident, when President Sirleaf spoke during the mass burial, that the smell and scene were indeed upsetting.
Taking notice of the commotion surrounding the number of caskets, mourners, military, parliament, and relatives of those who died, she observed with sadness. Many corpses were dismembered and had spent days decomposing, hence an unbearable stench; and yet, the nation along with the Liberian president attended in honor of those who had lost their lives.
Sad were the stories of those who had passed, one being of a boy whose class had decided to spend the night with him for a testing quiz the following day; they all died, including the principal of their school and his entire family.
Hundreds of caskets were stacked into military trucks parked alongside the grave yard waiting to be buried; relief workers stood around as if they had rehearsed their standing positions, all awaiting the mass burial with their shovels in hand.
Meanwhile, Madam Sirleaf, looking sincerely into the eyes of those at the gathering, said, “We have come on behalf of our brothers and sisters in Liberia to say to the people of Sierra Leone, how much we feel the pain and share the sorrow of all of those that have been affected by the tragic event.
“We pray that God will give the leadership of this country the strength and courage to accept this major loss, and the families and friends of the victims will also be richly blessed by God so that they can be strengthened as they go ahead trying to find a life in the midst of this great sorrow.”
She added: “Let God continue to look over all of us in this sub-region, our countries in the Mano River Union that have experienced so much sorrow and give us the courage to keep on rebuilding and reconstructing towards our development agenda. May God bless us all and keep us within the spirit of his powerful hands.”
President Ernest Bai Koroma thanked President Sirleaf for coming under such poor weather conditions to show her respect for those who passed and the grief that has fallen over the country.
“We welcome you and your delegation and tell you thank you for being here with us at this moment of grief. We have come here together in grief to pay our last respects to our loved ones, our neighbors, to our friends and to our colleagues, to reassure the bereaved families that they are not alone in this difficult moment,” he added.
“We have come together to share the agony inflicted upon our nation by the flood and the voracious mudslide that is another painful episode in our nation. Those that were swept away to their untimely deaths all had their plans for the next day and their hopes and aspirations for a bright future. Like the innocent children who went to study in the home of one of their brightest colleagues; like the young man who was due to get married tomorrow; and like the husband who worked so hard to get his family in a new home and just moved them into this lovely home; this has been… as painful as it can get, and has badly shaken our beloved nation. We will bury our loved ones but we will not bury our hopes.”
“We believe our Lord; our God is on our side. And will give us the strength to accept his loss, and like the resilient people that we always are, we will rise above this tragedy and begin once again, in the process of moving our great nation forward. As we mourn, let me assure you that we will support the bereaved families and the affected we will continue to stand by you and share with you your grief and help those of you that are traumatized and depressed. May the good God have mercy on our people that have departed and may they be granted eternal life,” President Koroma said.