I met Beatrice in the fifth grade, during a respite in Liberia's long civil war. Our country's fighting had orphaned her, so the principal of our school in Monrovia was her guardian. Where I was quiet and shy, Beatrice was talkative and outgoing. She became my first best friend.

Then a year later, in 1992, the war resumed and the school shut down. When it reopened after a few months, I came back to find Beatrice gone. I searched for her, but all anyone knew was that her guardian had fled the country. No one knew where Beatrice was, or even if she was alive.

A decade passed. Then this May I was attending a family member's college graduation in New Jersey when I was introduced to a distant cousin with Bea-trice's surname. Thinking, "What are the odds?" I asked him if he had a relative by her name. He did, in Minnesota. Five minutes later, I was on the phone with her. Not only had I found my long lost friend, it turned out she was also family.

Coincidentally, we had both come to the United States. I had come as a student, she as a refugee after her guardian abandoned her in Ghana. That first night, we talked for six hours, until 3 in the morning. Within weeks, I was on a plane to visit her. Now, after all those years, she is my best friend again.

Tetee Bropleh, Gaithersburg

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