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A Day My Life Flashed Before My Eyes

Many of us take the very breathe in our bodies for granted day in and day out. We just assume that perhaps we have the privilege to live for as long as we believe we should. While I subscribe to the thought of the Right to Life for all human beings, as a Christian, I also believe that my life is a gift from God my Heavenly Father and it is He alone who protects it and can take it away when the time is assigned. On numerous occasions, we leave our homes to go to work, school or run whatever errands we decide to accomplish for the day. The usual assumption is that we will get back home safely at the end of it all. Many times we do but then there are those stories we read of, see on the news or hear of from friends or families. The horror of being involved in some pileup on the expressway where there are casualties and people's lives were lost; the fire that claimed the lives of an entire family; that stray bullet meant for someone else on the street that pierces the brain of an innocent child at play or an armed robbery that went wrong and took lives in the commission of a crime; or all those souls lost in war when they had no agenda in the perpetration of it. And, that is where I am going as I remember this one time that I knew for certain that my life was over: I was prepared to die and in fact was actually at peace with the realization in the moment. There was a period in the Liberian crisis when the Country was effectively divided in half. Then rebel leader, Charles Taylor, proudly announced that he was in control of 90% of the land mass (dubbed"Greater Liberia" by his supporters) and the remaining space (Monrovia and some surrounding Counties) was run by the man he was bent on removing from power, then President, Samuel Doe and later administered by various Interim governments as the war progressed. As negotiations continued to end the war, a military intervention Peace Keeping Force called ECOMOG (Economic Community of West Africa States Monitoring Group) was deployed in the Country in 1990 to help maintain peace and keep the rival fighting groups apart. Once Doe was killed by forces of another splinter rebel group led by Prince Johnson of the INPFL (Independent National Patriotic Forces of Liberia) an Interim government was formed. ECOMOG organized what it termed "Confidence Visits" at one point allowing Liberians from the rest of the nation to visit "Greater Liberia" and see the progress being made by Taylor and his "government". The nature and letter of the program was good and well-intended but, it was also used as a propaganda tool by Taylor to show that he had good intentions for all Liberians and was the best man to lead the nation. As a journalist, I took the opportunity to go on some of these ECOMOG visits. It was intimidating mostly but then the experience as a whole was worthwhile and I did not suffer the worse for it. That was about to change the day I decided to travel to "Greater Liberia" but not under the auspices of ECOMOG. We traveled as a group: a journalist reporting for a local newspaper as well as stringing for the BBC; a young Liberian lady studying at the Ghana Institute of Journalism plus myself who at the time worked for one of two post war newspapers. We went to cover a Peace and Reconciliation Conference organized by Charles Taylor and his "government' on ending the war and transitioning into peace. There were many local media from "Greater Liberia", Chiefs and Elders, Taylor's "Cabinet Ministers" as well as Liberians from many walks of life during the two-day affair. We had spoken to a friend of ours and fellow journalist, who now worked with Taylor, to accommodate us while we were attending the forum. All went well for the two days and on the third we were scheduled to return back to Monrovia but had to go buy local food stuff and produce to take back with us. Fact was that most of the agricultural land was located in the part of the Country controlled by Taylor's NPFL. Food in Monrovia and the surroundings, especially local produce, were expensive since they had to be transported from the hinterland to the City. We had received an offer of a ride back to the city by one of Taylor's "Ministers", who happened to have worked in my Department at the University of Liberia prior to the war. We were extremely appreciative of the gesture because transportation was far and few between during those post war times. Once we got to the market and purchased all the goods we needed, the official told his body guards, armed to the teeth with all kinds of guns, gadgets and weapons, to load our things on his pickup truck. In the process (to this day I cannot remember what sparked it off) he and I got into an argument that escalated way out of control and became a screaming match. I called him a so-called Minister during the course of the disagreement and this was the breaking point. He was so annoyed that I could see a muscle in his temple pulsating wildly. He advanced into my personal space coming very close to me. I stood my ground. My colleagues were terrified and pleaded with both of us to forget about it and let it go. Neither of us were listening. Finally, the crucial point reached when he said, " I could order my guys to discipline you right now". He was referring to his armed bodyguards. This rattled me some but I still faced him head on and said, "Since they have no discipline themselves I suppose you mean you will order them to kill me?". He was so furious and stuttered and could barely form words. He immediately ordered his guards to off load all that belonged to me from his pickup. Despite all the sincere pleas from my two friends, he went ahead with his plan. I did not say a word as I was totally stunned. When I calmed down a little and became more aware of my surroundings, I realized that a sizable crowd had already gathered and were looking on intently at me now. Once all my goods were on the ground, my colleagues looked on helplessly but I told them it was OK to leave. My only word to them was that I would see them soon. I saw my life flash before my eyes and I seriously thought that was my last day on earth. Well, as the truck drove off I took in the gravity of my situation. There was absolutely no public transportation, no familiar face, I was in a hostile environment and the stares I was receiving were far from friendly as they knew I was from Monrovia. It was unnerving. It was then that I turned to that Higher power I believe in called God. I prayed really hard, "Father, my life is in your hands as I have no other way out. I believe and trust in you alone. I need you now". At that exact moment as I look up I see dust rising in the distance and an exact model of the white pickup trucks Taylor bought for all his "Ministers" heading my way. Not for a moment did I think it was the same man coming back to get me with a change of heart since unfortunately, I already knew him to be a very vindictive person from prior acquaintance at the University. My colleagues had even been told by me to inform our host that I would be coming to pick up my luggage on my way back to Monrovia. But, back to that pickup truck: as it pulled closer it stopped right next to me. When the dust cleared a little I was staring right into the face of a first cousin (one of each of our parents were brother and sister) who just so happened to be one of Taylor's "Cabinet Ministers"! She asked me what was I doing in the middle of the marketplace with people all around me. I explained what had transpired earlier as narrated here. She was shocked and outraged. But, as a direct answer to divine prayer, she told me that she was on her way to Monrovia but had forgotten some item at her house that was the only reason she had come back that way. "Oh, thank you God", was all I could say with a great big sigh of relief. As we headed back to Monrovia, I asked her to kindly make a detour to collect my belongings from our host since I was sure that our benefactor who was taking my friends back home was definitely not allowing them to put my things on his pickup-I was right! Well, once we got my things and I was safely on my journey to familiar territory, I finally reviewed what had just taken place. I acknowledged how blessed and protected I was not because I was special than all the souls lost in unexpected circumstances but, because God had decided that day was not destined to be my last.

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