Monrovia - Sianneh Beyan, 28, is a mother of three [one boy, two girls], and unemployed. She lost her husband and sister to the deadly Ebola Virus, and she is also Ebola survivor. Beyan lives in the Soul Clinic Community in Paynesville and could not go for decoration because her husband was cremated along with thousands of others.
The Ebola Survivor had gone to the Disco Hill Ebola cemetery to lay flowers at site intended to host a memorial to those who died from Ebola. She wore a black skirt, and white blouse dotted with black and her eyes were filled with tears as she explained her ordeal. She kept weeping as she explained her ordeal.
The mother of three said her husband a taxi driver contracted the disease conveying a sick passenger to the hospital. She said after contracting the disease, he died in their house despite several calls made for an ambulance to pick him up, led to no result. She said at the time of her husband’s death there was no graveyard for Ebola victims therefore he was cremated.
“My husband was a driver, he picked up a sick person and he got sick. He died in our house and the Red Cross people came and took his body and burned it. We called the ambulance and they delayed until he died in the house.” Beyan said the safe burial that the government started on December 24, 2014 should have been the way of burial throughout the outbreak. “I’m angry that they burned my husband, they should have buried him like they are burying people now,” Beyan added.
Decoration Day in Liberia is a time for Liberians to remember family members who have passed over the years and this tradition has gone on for 99 years. But the 99th anniversary of Decoration Day brings a strange sense of loss because for many families whose deceased relatives do not have grave. During the Ebola virus decease epidemic when there were no burial sites for Ebola victims. The bodies were cremated.
This was the case with a 12 year-old girl named Mercy Tarplah. She was raped to death last October in the New Liberia Broadcasting System Building commonly known as the Titanic building in Paynesville at the height of the epidemic. The body of the child, according to the family, was allegedly taken away by the Red Cross with the support of the Liberia National Police (LNP) for cremation.
Moses Worlea, uncle of the decease child, said he was sad commemorating the day because it brings back sad memories. He recalls that he was mercilessly flogged by the police when he demanded that his niece be given a befitting burial and resisted cremation of her remains. Said Worlea; “I feel disappointed about this day because of the way I was treated when I asked that my niece's body. It was not an Ebola body so I said she could not be taken by the Ebola burial team.
“On this date, I want to remember her because she was raped and she died. If I had this day with her grave in front of me, I would always remember the terrible thing that happened to her, and other family members will remember what happened to her. It is regrettable.”
Vermon Russ of Johnson Street, rushed to the cemetery to decorate her son’s grave. She said he died of Kidney and Liver failure in 2005. She was shocked about the condition in which she met the grave. She said criminals burst into the grave and left the skeleton. Like Russ many families are facing distress every year as the criminals just don’t stop vandalizing grave sites.
Russ said since her son died, she has made it a duty to clean the grave on Decoration Day, but today was different because she joined others who have had similar problems with their relatives' graves in the past.
“I came and met the grave all scattered. I feel very bad. When your loved ones that you have been interacting with in the past die, you bring them here to give them a resting place. On Decoration Day we expect to come and show our concern to them for the good and bad times.” Russ said that the government decision to erect a fence around the cemetery for protection was a bad one because it has made the situation worse and turned the graveyard into a haven for criminals and drug dealers.
“Some have been saying that they dig the grave for steel rods, but as you can see that grave the steel rods are there, but most of the skeletons are missing,” she lamented. “Obviously, what the people have been saying should be true that it is the skeleton they want for drugs, which is very bad.” She said grave sites should be protected and not vandalized.
Families want ashes
At the Disco Hill Cemetery on the Robertsfield Highway, Beyan is demanding that the government return her husband’s ashes to her for burial. “They got my husband dust, I’m feeling bad that tomorrow [future] that I cannot show my children their father’s grave,” Beyan said. “I have no grave to decorate on this day, let the government give my husband’s dust, so I can find a place to put [bury] it.”
Johnson Wleh a petty trader who lost his brother to the deadly virus agrees Beyan that families are given the ashes of their loved ones to serve as a sign of respect for them. “We are not used to this burning body thing. I’m confused with this dust of our relatives because they join everybody and burned them,” he said. The ashes of Ebola patients who died of the virus have been placed in barrels and kept in a safe place at the National Cemetery for Ebola Dead run by the Global Communities, awaiting a memorial event, according to the government.