The three women and the two Liberians who had been hiding in the convent walked up a road toward Barnersville, a smaller suburb farther from town. "We came across dead bodies," the annals say. "We had to identify ourselves and have our bags checked at many of the checkpoints where rebels were posted. . . .
"We walked for about 2 1/2 hours, and a commando for the rebels stopped us and gave us a ride." The commando ran out of gas. They got another ride. Finally they were accused of being Doe supporters and CIA agents. It took Shirley and Joel more than two hours, but they talked themselves and those with them out of trouble.
At 6 p.m. on Aug. 6, they reached the Ivory Coast border and crossed to safety.
There, by chance, Shirley encountered Sam McClain, the young man who had been in one of her classes at the University of Liberia. She told him something that he found hard to believe.
She was determined, he says. "She was going to return to Liberia."
Monday: The slayings.
Liberia Fact Sheet
Background on Africa's oldest independent black nation:
Economy: Civil war has destroyed much of the economy, especially around Monrovia. About three-quarters of the labor force is in agriculture. Chief exports are, iron ore 61%, rubber 20%, timber 11%
History: Established in 1822 as haven for freed slaves. Small "Americo-Liberian" elite (3% to 5% of population) can be traced to those settlers. Most other inhabitants are divided among 16 principal tribes, which adhere to traditional customs and indigenous religions. In general, Americo-Liberians have been far better off than indigenous Africans.
The civil war: In 1980, a small group of Liberia's indigenous tribes revolted against Americo-Liberian leaders, citing discontent over living conditions and a bad economy. Coup leader Samuel K. Doe took over and ruled Liberia until he was assassinated in September, 1990, by rebel forces.
Current status: Shaky cease-fire. An interim government is running country until February election. Rival rebel factions led by Charles Taylor and Prince Johnson are seeking control while observing the cease-fire.
\o7 Sources: CIA's World Factbook, Political Handbook of the World, Worldbook Encyclopedia\f7