Today marks the two year anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the Samoan islands in 2009. According to a CNN.com article, the earthquake was an 8.0 magnitude and it hit somewhere near American Samoa. The hardest hit areas by the tsunami were Pago Pago (the capital of American Samoa and the spot where the cruise ship docked) and my own village of Leone.
Just yesterday, a student came into my room to hang out before school started and she asked me if I knew what happened on 9/29. She then proceeded to tell me her own story about how the earthquake was unlike anything she had ever felt before. She had been in 8th grade in 2009. The quake and tsunami happened early in the morning and she had just gotten to school. Following the shaking and rumbling, she quickly ran home to make sure her family was okay - they live extremely close to the water and she is the older sister to 12 younger siblings. After arriving home and finding her family safe, they quickly drove up the mountains to wait out whatever was coming next. Everyone in her family survived and her house was not damaged.
Other families were not so lucky. A total of 34 people died in American Samoa. While that may not seem like a lot, especially compared to the death toll from the tsunami that hit Japan this year, people still lost their family members and friends. At that time, there was no tsunami warning system here. The only real notification that people had was from the radio and word of mouth. They had no bells or sirens or anything to tell them to get to higher ground. Did most people know that when the water recedes in the ocean that you should immediately start running? I'm not sure - but if this had never happened before, why would they know that?
Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to drive further west than Leone and on my drive, the damage from the earthquake and tsunami was still visible. Broken churches and foundations of homes sat eerily. FEMA tents were still sprinkled around - are people still living in these? All my friends from FEMA (the guys that threw us the parties with all the delicious food) had come here to help rebuild homes, yet even to this day, 2 years later, FEMA tents still stand. It's a haunting sight to see.
Living in Leone on this day will be interesting. Last year, today was a holiday and students stayed home from school. Today, we have an assembly and service at 8:30 and I'm not sure what will happen after. I've heard that we will have classes and I've also heard that we will be sent home. I guess I will have to wait and see.
For those of you that live nowhere near an ocean, be thankful, for she is a mighty, powerful thing, and as beautiful as she is, she can turn ugly with the snap of a finger.
The link above is a video that was taken in Leone shortly after the tsunami swept through. At one point, the reporter is walking across a bridge. To this day, that bridge still shows sign of damage.
These tsunami warning sirens have now been placed all over the island. I have yet to hear what they sound like, but I'm sure it is loud.