A Personal Narrative of a Blaine Student

A Personal Narrative of a Blaine Student

The story of my life is one of a collective effort, and when I’m asked to tell it I realize it began even before  I was born. The people who surrounded me throughout my youth helped shape my journey. In order to fully understand it the story of my parents, and our home country must be told first. In order to adequately do so, I have divided my life into three acts the prologue, my birth, and the beginning.

Along the west coast of Africa, nestled between Sierra Leone and Guinea, lies the nation of Liberia. Standing as the fourth poorest country on the globe civil war easily tore Liberia apart between 1989 to 2003. During the war “more than 250,000 people died in the conflict and more than 1.3 million were displaced from their homes.”(CNN,2017). This is where the scene has been set, a country in a stage of war.

The first act begins with a woman and her sister as they walked through hot gravel road with gunshots firing in the distant. They were walking to escape the war that had engulfed their home in hopes of taking refuge in the neighboring county of Buchuna. On their way there they happened to meet a good man who offered the woman and her sister safety as they took refuge in Buchanan.The funny thing was the man had offered them help in hopes of impressing the woman’s sister, but instead, my father caught the eyes of my mother. War had stripped my mother from her home at the age of 19. When I asked her what the scariest part of it all had been she told me, “there was no communication, no nothing. All you could do was hope to see your family.” My parents met because they needed each other but they stayed together because they loved each other.

The worst thing about the war was that it wasn’t constant. Peace would be administered after extended periods of conflicts but it was always temporary. When fighting broke out communication was obstructed, travel halted, and almost all major institutions including hospitals closed.  My dad told me how he had walked for miles and miles just so they could afford a meal. They survived because they had each other.

Unfortunately for my mother, fighting broke out again when she was 9 months pregnant. On April 28 as a violent storm passed over the small shack my parents had been living in, my mom went into labor. There were no doctors, narcotics, or even a comfortable bed for her to lie in. Just her, my dad, and a midwife. Eventually, she was able to deliver a boy but the moment he was born my parents knew something was wrong. With no way to get to a hospital and no hope, he died at only four days old. He was supposed to be named Harold Barry Jr, after our dad, but once he died they gave him one that suited him better, Storm. Storm was born into this world on a stormy day but we believe the storms of war had been what killed him.  

One of the things I will never be able to understand about my parents’ lives was that they never had the luxury of consistency, nothing was a given. Not even the life of their son.  Eventually, the war would come to a state where my mom could return home to Monrovia. But what had been taken away couldn’t be regained. My parents realized that Liberia could not guarantee the life they wanted.  My dad took off to America the moment he had the chance too. He wanted to be able to make a life he felt proud to bring his children and his wife into.


The second act of my life begins at my birth. On January 15, 2002, I was born in a small hospital in Monrovia Liberia but I wouldn’t be named until January 22. There exists a tradition within my family where on the seventh day of a child’s birth there is a celebration held for the naming of that child. During this celebration family and friends alike gather as the parents bestow a gift to their newborn. This gift is meant to symbolize their future hopes and dreams for their child. Seven days after I was born my parents laid out two objects before me, a book and a pen. In a country armed with guns, my parents chose to arm me with a pen. I grew up with this knowledge as the foundation of my life.

A figure constantly in the back of my mind during my youth was my dad. He left again after I was born leaving me, my mom, and my older sister behind. I was three when he filed the papers to send for all of us, but he had made a mistake and only my mom could meet him there. My parents couldn’t be there for me during the early parts of my life but I never felt like I was abandoned by them. They always sent gifts and called whenever they had a chance. It also helped that I was constantly surrounded by aunts, uncles, and cousins.

After my mother left her family took me and my sister in. I can remember vividly pitch black nights scattered with stars. The house was always crowded with bustling bodies, and noise but looking underneath those skies the world felt infinitely large. My favorite part of living in Liberia was being outside. My cousins and I would stay out all day running until we saw the first star. Even though I didn’t have my parents with me it was home.


The final act began as I packed the world I knew into a small suitcase, folding memories as I did clothes. Leaving Liberia wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I was told since youth America was a land of opportunity, a paradise of some sort and on that far and distant paradise I had a mom and a dad eagerly waiting for me.
I was five when I boarded my first plane with my sister. We were leaving the world we had been born into and the one our brother had died in. As the plane took off I didn’t know what I was leaving behind. It wouldn’t be until I was thirteen would I be told of Storms story. I believe it’s possible to miss someone you never knew. I do. But it really is true that when another door closes a new one open. We arrived in Minnesota on January 18, 2007, eight days after my younger brother had been born. His name is Harold Barry Jr. I didn’t get to have an older brother as planned but I got to be an older sister.

Looking back at it all I think of this picture I have of me and my older sister when I was five that I love. We were sitting in a McDonald’s booth for the first time with these huge goofy smiles on, in our first winter coats. Five year old me then didn’t understand the sacrifice her parents had made in order for her to be there smiling at her sister as she did,  and fifteen year old me today still doesn’t understand. I may never be able to but I don’t need to understand to love them for it.