DALLAS — A month ago today Louise Troh was picking up her long-lost love, Thomas Eric Duncan, at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport — after 16 years and an ocean’s distance between them.
Tragically, their fairy-tale reunion ended within days and they were separated again — this time a mere 15 miles apart.
Duncan died on Oct. 8 in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas from the highly contagious Ebola virus, which his family says he unknowingly brought with him from West Africa.
Troh never got to say goodbye in person. She and members of her family were kept in quarantine for a 21-day incubation period out of fear that Duncan might have passed on the dreaded disease during their week together.
On Monday, health officials gave Troh the all-clear to resume her life.
“Even though the quarantine is over, our time of mourning is not over,” Troh said in a statement provided by city officials. “My beloved fiance, Thomas Eric Duncan, who was also the father of my son, Karsiah Eric Duncan, did not survive with us. We continue to mourn his loss and grieve the circumstances that led to his death, just at the time we thought we were facing a happy future together.”
After being moved from their contaminated apartment, Troh, her 13-year-old son, and two adult nephews have been waiting out their incubation period at a private home in an undisclosed gated community.
Troh was among 43 Texans, including some health care workers, who had possible contact with Duncan that are now cleared from monitoring.
“Our happiness is mixed with sadness at the same time,” Troh said.
Officials said an additional 120 Dallas-area people, mainly health care workers who treated Duncan, are still being watched for symptoms. Two nurses who cared for the Liberian citizen are hospitalized with Ebola.
“Our hearts also go out to the two brave women who have been infected by this terrible disease as they were trying to help him,” Troh said. “We are also aware of how much this has affected many other people of my city, Dallas, and my country, the United States of America, even as it has in the country of my birth, Liberia. We also know that many people who work in Presbyterian Hospital are hurting because of this tragedy. We pray that God will bring healing to all in our community soon.”
If no other cases are confirmed, all monitoring would be complete on Nov. 7.
“We’re breathing a little easier, but we’re still holding our breath a fair amount,” Mayor Mike Rawlings said during a news conference.
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said Troh was fearful when he spoke with her on the phone late Sunday.
“Fearful of how she and the young men would be accepted, of how they would be treated — whether they would be seen as disease carriers or oddities,” Jenkins said during a news conference. But, he said, “there’s zero risk that any of those people who have been marked off the list have Ebola.”
Eight children who were being monitored will return to public schools on Tuesday, prompting officials to preach compassion. Jenkins expressed a particular concern for Troh’s younger son.
“Middle-schoolers are some of the most ferocious and scary animals on the planet,” he said. “To be dropped into a pool of middle-schoolers after all that he’s been through — I need your help, parents. I need your help to treat that young man with the kind of love that you would want your own child treated with.”
Troh’s two-bedroom apartment, where she had lived for several years, was gutted by a decontamination team. Only a computer and her grandmother’s Bible were spared. But city officials said a philanthropist has stepped forward to help the family get back on their feet.
George Mason, Troh’s pastor at Wilshire Baptist Church, thanked supporters and reminded everyone that it will take time for her to integrate back into the community.
“Louise Troh and these three boys who have been with her in quarantine the last three weeks are remarkable people,” Mason said. “This has been a situation that’s even hard to conceive if you haven’t lived it. It is an isolating experience filled with fear and anxiety about a very scary disease. They have been able to manage this with extraordinary grace.”
Jason Sickles is a reporter for Yahoo. Follow him on Twitter (@jasonsickles).