A five member choir sung an emotional and very moving spiritual song on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, at the Tsunami Memorial Picnic Shelter at Lions Park in Tafuna. On the bottom right section of the photo is the memorial plaque, listing the names of the 34 victims of the 2009 tsunami. [photo: Fili Sagapolutele]

Flags were flown at half-staff on Saturday throughout American Samoa in remembrance of the Sept. 29, 2009 tsunami victims, whose names were read during a memorial service at Lions Park.

The service was held at the Tsunami Memorial Picnic Shelter constructed and completed last year through a joint effort by the Rotary Club of Pago Pago and Hawaiian Airlines. There are two picnic shelters - one each on the north and south sides of the tennis court.

The shelter on the south side includes a memorial plaque with the names of the 2009 tsunami victims.  Bouquets of flowers were placed in front of the memorial plaque Saturday as the shelter was described by Rev. Iasepi Ulu, of the CCCAS Fagatogo, as a  “sanctuary” for people to come together to meditate on God’s goodness and remember their love ones.

Ulu, who offered prayers at the memorial service, spoke words of comfort to families of the 34 victims, who perished that day three years ago and quoted a verse from the Bible. He also said: “Life is short and although life may not be fair at times, we place our trust in God. God is a good God.”

Additionally, God is a living and loving God, who “will be with us in times of suffering.”

“...We gather here to remember those that have passed on. It’s not an easy day, especially for those who have lost loved ones,” Ulu told the small crowd, which included  U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Regional Administrator Nancy Ward, who came to pay tribute to the victims and their families.

“I’ve made it a point today to bring my children and my wife, to remember those who have gone before us. Teach my children the value of the importance of life and to appreciate the gifts God has given us,” said Ulu.

Rotary Club president Jackie Young said Saturday’s memorial “is a small prayer service in remembrance of our families, our friends, and especially our loved ones who lost their lives in that devastating tsunami that hit our shores...”

She said the two picnic shelters built with the support of Hawaiian Airlines “were for families of those who lost their lives in the tsunami...to bring some cheer and joy in the gatherings that one can have here.”

Rep. Vailiuama Steve Leasiolagi, whose mother Aionamu Leasiolagi was among those who died in the tsunami, spoke on behalf of the Fono and families of the victims. Emotional and wiping away tears, Vailiuama said the tsunami anniversary is always a very difficult time for those who lost families to the tsunami.

He said the survivors would think back about their parents, sisters, brothers and even foreigners - who made American Samoa their home - were taken on that morning of Sept. 29, 2009.

“My mom was a very humble person” who came to the territory at a very young age from Samoa and learned survival skills,” he said and thanked the Rotary Club for the memorial plaque, and the two picnic shelters which pay tribute to those who perished in the tsunami.

On his weekend radio program, Gov. Togiola Tulafono spoke in Samoan about the three-year anniversary and the lives lost that day. He also spoke about the importance of preparedness in the event of a disaster, like the events of September 2009.

More details from Rotary Club and Hawaiian Airlines tsunami memorial in tomorrow’s edition.


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