Flags half-staff, bells ring to honor 2009 tsunami dead
To honor the victims of the 2009 tsunami, Gov. Togiola Tulafono has ordered all flags in the territory to be flown at half-staff today and a simultaneous ringing of curfew (or sa) bells today.
Three years ago, today at 6:38 a.m. a strong 8.0 earthquake shook the Samoan islands and some 15 to 20 minutes later followed the most devastating tsunami ever to hit the Samoan islands with towering waves, killing 34 people in the territory, three in Tonga and more than 100 in neighboring Samoa.
In a memorandum issued yesterday afternoon, the governor ordered that all flags in American Samoa be lowered to half-staff beginning at sunrise until sunset today “in observance and in honor of those in American Samoa whose lives were taken by the earthquake and tsunami” three years ago.
“In acknowledgement of the deceased and as a reminder to us all,” the governor asked that church and village leaders authorize the ringing of all church and Sa (curfew) bells in their villages at 7 a.m. today.
“May the lowering of the flags and the sounding of the bells prompt us to remember those who died and the devastation of that day,” said the governor. “But may it also move us to give thanks to God for the lives that were spared and even our own lives.”
“May the attention of all in the territory be ever-focused on the need to be vigilant and meticulous in our preparations for such disasters,” said Togiola, who acknowledged the support of federal agencies that made American Samoa a federal “TsunamiReady” territory.
“Should disaster once more occur, we stand set to effectively respond. This designation we receive as a tribute to the victims of the tragedy of three years ago,” he said. “May we never forget the events of Sept. 29, 2009, nor those whose lives were lost on that day.”
Names of the 34 victims will be read at today’s memorial service by the Rotary Club of Pago Pago along with Hawaiian Airlines. The service set for 11:30 will be held at the Tsunami Memorial Picnic Shelter located at Lions Park.
No official confirmation at press time if the village of Leone, one of the worst hit villages in the tsunami, will hold a ceremony this morning. Leone have already built the “Leone Healing Garden” - located along the shoreline - to pay tribute to the ten residents of the village killed in 2009.
Some families of the victims said they will be holding their own special memorial service at home to remember their loved ones. Samoa News website, www.samoanews.com, will provide any updates from today’s tsunami services.
The name list of the tsunami victims, along with their home villages, is from the official government list released in December 2009:
Fuatino Atumata Salave’a (Leone)
Li Chen (Pago Pago)
Michelle Eneliko (Leone)
Vaijoresa Fitiao (Leone)
Folalela Lauofo (Lauli’i)
Aionamu Leasiolagi (Fagatogo)
Elena Salave’a (Leone)
Columbus Sauiluma (Leone)
Tuluiga Sauiluma (Leone)
Helen Seui (Leone)
Sabrina Seva’aetasi (Masefau)
Lee In Shengi (Pago Pago)
Fofoga Timoteo (Fagatogo)
Eveline Puni-Tua’ato (Laulii)
Evelyn Tua’ato (Laulii)
Aiaifua Tuaopepe (Pago Pago)
Siasaga Tufu (Aua)
Billie Leota-Petelo (Pago Pago)
Taua Liutolo (Leone)
Piao Longqi (Pago Pago)
Van Tho Nguyen (Tafuna)
Daniel Peter Olszewski (Pago Pago)
Godafreda Palma (Pago Pago)
Kapisi Sima (Petesa)
Faaumaolagi So’oalo-Mua (Leone)
Faatamalii Sooto (Leone)
Perise Sula (Poloa)
Pita Tanielu (Tafuna)
Aterei Taua’a (Fagatogo)
Matanana Tusitala (Vaitogi)
Vaipalolo Viena (Pago Pago)
Hong Min Wei (Pago Pago)
Mija Woo (Asili)
Pu-Hee Woo (Asili)