The past week has been one of the saddest in my lifetime. When I heard about the tsunami I spent hours glued to the news on TV and also news from family and friends online. Video after video and story after story unfolded the horrific extent of the damage the tsunami had done to my beloved people. It felt wrong sitting in my nice apartment eating well with my family when across the oceans my fellow Samoans were fighting for their lives let alone looking for their toddlers, wives or parents. Each story seemed sadder than the last and I end up crying harder. Just when I think I'm okay I see yet another sad video and the loss is so endless I crying again. But the amazing thing is or what warms me in a way is that I know I'm not alone in this. I think anyone who is Samoan has been like me in the past two weeks, just a wreck and with puffy eyes from crying so much. I never thought I could cry so much in a week. I would find my husband with red-rimmed eyes by the computer and then I'd see he's also been reading up on the events back home. I'd show him a video I found online and again I'd cry with him as I watch the sad tale again. And then the survival stories trickle through that lifts the spirit only for a while before you come across another heartbreaking story. Yesterday was White Sunday in Samoa and my sister FJ shared the Tagata Pasifika online link which covered more from Samoa. And one young woman who has lost both her toddler and baby, clearly very distraught in her distant grieving voice and face that hid nothing she said that God gave her the most beautiful children and He had taken them back. Just when I think I'm on my recovery journey I see something like that and I'm back to square one as I cannot fathom what it's like to lose your family in an instant like that and in such a tragic way. I pray for that woman and her pain, I pray for all of them that suffered so much loss. I pray for their recovery from deep emotional wounds. I pray they find a way to move forward amidst the loss and devastation.
I busied myself along with many other Samoan brothers and sisters by finding ways to encourage people to donate what you can to Samoa to help feed, clothe and house them for now and later to rebuild. When I spoke to my youngest sister who is in Samoa and was at the devastated areas from the start she told of how they finally found our relatives in Saleapaga. Sadly our aunty that we all know died in the tsunami but the rest of the family were thankful that as sad as it was they lost ONE person as opposed to all their neighbours who lost at least three members of their families. It's amazing that in the midst of their grief they see the bright side as well. This is an amazing story that my sister told me of our cousin Paneta's experience. Paneta told my sister that when he saw the wave heading towards them after his father who first saw it and alerted the neighbourhood to run for the hills. Paneta ran back to the big fale(house) and grabbed his 4 year old son Seti and nephew Lailua. With both boys in either arm he tried to run as fast as he could up the hill towards the cliff like most of the neighbourhood. He said he didn't get far before the wave hit him from behind. He said it was so powerful he realised he'd lost grip of his son Seti. He was trying to stay afloat hold his nephew and get to the cliff before the wave receded. He saw his son a few metres from him, out of his reach. He said he thought there is no way he can get to him now and save them all so he said a silent prayer to God and said God if this is your will, then so be it. So he yelled out to his son: 'Fa Seti' meaning 'Goodbye Seti' as ge watched his son's head bobbing in the wave. He managed to get on the cliff with the help of others who were already there and his nephew due to the roughness suffered a minor head injury. As they stood on the cliff and watched the devastation and the water receding, they heard a little voice yelling out to help him. And when they looked towards the stream which the water had now receded towards, there was his 4 year old son Seti hanging onto a banana tree trunk trying to swim to the river bank. Seti escaped without a single scratch on his body. When my sister asked little Seti how he survived. Seti said he just kept swimming then he saw the banana tree trunk and hung on to it and kept swimming. I see this as a miracle. Maybe God hearing Paneta's prayer decided his will is that Seti must survive! I don't know what it was but that is one of the most beautiful stories that came out of this devastation.
People ask me how my family are and how Samoa's doing and I find myself fighting back tears as I try to answer them in a composed way. It's been a terrible terrible week for Samoans around the world but mostly those that were affected directly. However the united front that our people have put up in order to fundraise and donate to the victims has been downright amazing. The reaction from our neighbours New Zealand and Australia have been nothing but just incredible. I had applied for NZ citizenship a couple of months ago and I commented to my husband that I would accept that citizenship with much pride and appreciation even more so considering the outpouring of support and assistance from New Zealand to Samoa. Thank you to everyone that have kept us in your thoughts and prayers and those that have given things to help our people. Your help is always welcome. Ia faatutumuina e le Atua mea ua faagaogaoina ona o lo outou alolofa.