Samoan people look back at devastating tsunami one year ago

Gus Hannemann
Gus Hannemann
Filipo Ilaoa
Filipo Ilaoa
Tai Taufua
Tai Taufua

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Wednesday marks the one year anniversary of the tsunami that killed nearly 200 people in the Samoan islands.

An 8.0 quake sent a wall of water roaring through the islands and it devastated almost everything in its path.

It's been a long road to recovery for the Samoan people. But many say their faith and family have kept everything together and that's why they're saying Wednesday is more about looking ahead than reaching back.

There's no question that the signs of destruction still remain.

"It's one thing to lose your home, it's one thing to lose your plantation, it's another thing to lose a life and that's devastating," Former American Samoa legislative member in Hawaii, Gus Hannemann said.

Devastating, yet encouraging to see the signs of progress.

"It's not so much what you see at the recovery, but the mentality of the people, the ladies and the other people that drove me around in meeting with the prime minister, they were very happy," Hannemann said.

Hannemann visited his native land in May.

"I went to the market to buy T-shirts for my grandchildren and family, everybody was happy, I asked, how's business? Oh it's fantastic the told me," he said.

American Samoa Honolulu deputy director, Filipo Ilaoa was in Samoa in April and he just happened to be down there, the day after the tsunami hit.

"It seems like it was just yesterday, but overall I think the people of American Samoa and of course independent Samoa, coped it with it very well, because family ties are very close in Samoa," he said. "There's so much progress, not only that the people are back to normal as far as way of living and everything else, their normal routine."

Wednesday will be anything but normal. Numerous church services will be held and even a memorial monument will break ground.

The day will be spearheaded by the government's tsunami memorial church service called: 9/29 Remembrance Service.

"Samoa families are at the core of everything and I think that that really helped," Ilaoa said.

But the road back still has some speed bumps. The Samoan government still hasn't posted evacuation routes and there's no official tsunami warning system with sirens warning people to get to higher ground.

The governor of American Samoa has declared Wednesday a holiday. Here at home, a church service is being held Wednesday night at the Holy Family Church in Moanalua, starting at 7 p.m.

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