Saturday, October 3, 2009

Extraordinary People: Tsunami Samoa

Today in the zone, it was blazing hot. And dusty with sea silt. And it smelled. Bad. Very bad. Not just wet, dead fish smell. The air was thick with what i can only describe as lots of dead things smell. It seeped through the windows. Into your clothes. Your hair. Making you want to cover your nose. Or hold your breath for the three hours it took to drive the zone and give out soup. But you didnt. Because it felt rude. Disrespectful. To all those picking through the pieces of their lives. Pushing a wheelbarrow with a rice sack and a water canteen. Sweeping sand out of a spindly hut thats surrounded with hills of tsunami trash. Asking politely if theres a spoon to eat with? while wearing one jandal and sitting on the cement foundation of your swept away home. Announcing with a sigh of relief - 'No, theres nobody missing from our houses here. Everybody is found. 18 bodies all found yesterday. Nobody missing anymore. '

The zone is not an easy place to live. Or to work in. But extreme circumstances require exceptional effort from ordinary people.
People like EPC linesmen. - The day after the tsunami they were putting up new power poles. Clearing away fallen wires. Today, they were still there. The same teams because lots of them recognized the soup truck and greeted us like long lost friends. I will never flip a light switch again without a greater appreciation for the work that goes into shining light in darkness. Amazingly, power poles are up. Lining the road clear through to Lalomanu.And as we drove away at 5pm, still the linesmen labor on. I doubt theyre calculating their overtime pay. And certainly none seemed to begrudge their hard work. As the lights start to go on at Aleipata - we say thank you.
People like - the road crew. Immediately after the waves hit, a call went out on the radio for all and any heavy duty equipment companies to please, please come help clear the roads so rescue teams could make it through to the disaster zone. They came. Bulldozers. Diggers. Dump trucks. EXcavators. And with them came the machine operators. The truckloads of road workers. They cleared the road. They started trucking rocks and sand to fill in the holes so cars could make it through. They're reinforcing the seawalls. Moving rubble. Shifting concrete blocks and fallen bricks. Helping to find the lost. You can drive smoothly and pothole-free right from disaster zone start to finish. I got home at 6pm, eager for a shower to erase the grime of the day. I wondered - what time will the road crew get to sleep tonight? As the relief trucks roll in on beautiful strips of road - we say thank you.
People like - the Samoa Police force. On the eve of tsunami day, the radio called for 'all police to report at 4am in work boots and heavy duty gear.Bring a change of clothes because you will be swimming and diving to recover bodies. Come ready to work.' And they did. On Tuesday, police were everywhere. Doing everything and anything. Today, they're everywhere. Doing everything and and anything. At Boomerang over 60 of them are scouring the ground for the 7 people still missing from those beach fales alone. They found one crumpled 4 year old today. They'll be there till late tonight. And they'll be back again tomorrow. Until they've found them all. We got to them at 4pm. They were tired. But cheerful. As the relief effort continues, organized and orderly - we say thank you. Extreme circumstances require exceptional effort from ordinary people. And the results? Extraordinary.

EPC take a soup break.

Police pause for soup.
Road crew take a break. Road warriors.
Police stay positive.
Soup crew at work.

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