I was born on August 9, 1971, unto the union of Jacob D. Massaquoi, I and Latopore Larsah in Toeplay-Butuo, Nimba County, Liberia. Several wives, my father had many children. The distinction between children from different mothers was not apparent to us. I was practically raised by two of my elder sisters, Willette and Judee Massquoi. They are both devoted Christians and educators with multiple skills and talents. They taught me charity, compassion, hard work, and self-discipline through deeds. I accepted Jesus Christ of Nazareth as my Lord and Personal Savior and got baptized in 1983. I played an active role in my Church youth group.
Reinforced by my deep religious belief, another development was to concretize my direction in life. Civil war and brutal violence have been endemic to my home country for decades. These events shaped my life and propelled me into a life of service to humanity. In July 1990, during the height of the civil carnage in Liberia, I miraculously survived the infamous St. Peter’s Lutheran Church massacre that took the lives of about six hundred people and critically injured many others. I witnessed the execution-style killing of one of my senior siblings by the late President Samuel Doe’s government death squad. I miraculously escaped and survived for several days by living under a false identity in Monrovia, the Liberian capital. But another terrible experience was to occur.
On the early morning of October 1994, I survived a home invasion that left my right leg shattered by bullets five-inches below my knees. I spent eighteen months recovering from my injury at Dr. H. Brown’s Medical and Surgical Clinic, a private clinic adjacent the Monrovia City Hall. This bullet injury ultimately left my right leg more than five inches shorter than my left leg for the next 10 years of my life.
During these years, I was physically handicapped and had to use specially modified shoes for support. The pain was excruciating, and the healing and recovery time was very challenging. Time after time, I nearly lost hope, but prayers and my faith sustained and uplifted I, illuminating hope through the darkest times.
On the early morning of April 6, 1996, the civil war’s gruesome carnage swarmed through Monrovia again. By 10:00 a.m., the clinic was ransacked. Doctors and nurses fled, and patients were left to the mercy of the belligerent forces. I witnessed it all and miraculously survived.
In February of 2002, I escaped Liberia with the assistance of Ms. Frances Rea Key, Mr. Chuck LaMark, and the Foundation for the Defense of Human Rights (Frontline). I sought and received political asylum in the United States, and settled down on Staten Island, a home to more than ten thousand Liberian refugees who fled the Liberian civil war.