30 Sep 2010

Pacific commemorates those lost in last year's tsunami

10:58 am on 30 September 2010

A year on from the Pacific tsunami that claimed 186 lives, some people are returning to Samoa for the first time.

143 people were killed in Samoa, 34 in American Samoa and nine in Tonga, with whole villages and livelihoods destroyed.

In American Samoa, the 29th has been declared a public holiday, and in Tonga the anniversary will be commemorated with church services and a day of fasting.

In Samoa, today's commemorations will be followed by a government-sponsored event on October the 3rd.

Faasega Taufua Tapelu is back in Lalomanu after her counsellors convinced her to confront her fear of returning to the beach.

She lost 14 family members in the tsunami, including her father.

"I'm scared, anything to do with the wave, I get scared, not really confident to be around the area. That's why I always make myself occupied, look busy, because if I sit around, it flashes all the memories back on that day, in the morning, and what I did last, and what I did to help Dad."

Faasega Taufua Tapelu says she was in a wheelchair for months after the tsunami and still suffers memory loss.

At daybreak, American Samoa government leaders, church ministers and families gathered at Utulei Beach for a service to mark the first anniversary of the tragedy.

At 6:48 am, the time when the 8.3 magnitude earthquake struck, a bell was sounded 34 times in honor of the men, women and children who lost their lives.

At the same time a siren wailed across Pago Pago bay and church bells in villages sounded 34 times.

Governor Togiola Tulafono called or a moment of silence to remember those who perished in the tsunami.

We are here not to revisit the horror of one year ago, but to remember with love and compassion our dear ones lost that day. We are here for them, and we are here for their families. It is to their memory that we have come to listen with our hearts.