Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Two sets of people.Like night and day.

Ray and Etta Wyberski, Owners of 'Treasure Island' Jewellery store, American Samoa.

“We didn’t even think about the house and the damage or anything. We just thought about our son – everybody here was safe but we had one more that we needed to find…” Ray and Eta went into town. The Plaza building was standing but the lower levels had been blasted through by the wave. It was difficult to make sense of the wreckage though, because of the hordes of people who were scrambling through the ruined stores. Looters. Grabbing anything and everything they could get their hands on. Mainly passersby from other areas unaffected by the waves. Spectators who did not have to worry about searching for missing family members. “It’s amazing how you have two sets of people. One care about life and the other have no thought about anybody else, all they were thinking about was what they could steal. That was it, it was like night and day, two sets of people.”

One couple had come to check their offices at the Plaza and watched the thievery with horror. “One of the hardest parts of the day was the looting. Watching people at their worst was not something I will soon forget. People were looting stores, vehicles, offices, really anything they could get their hands on. Cars that were overturned were soon missing their tires as thieves came by. Some people were literally scavenging before a woman’s body was even removed from a car…”

Into this madness, came Eta and Ray looking for their son. Recognizing them, several people came up to them, “Do you know they’re looting your store? They’re stealing all your stuff.” Eta just waved them away, shoving through the crowd, screaming for her son, Anthony! Has anybody seen my son?!

...Anthony had made it safely out of reach of the water. But when the first wave had barely pulled back, he was one of the rare few who ventured outside to try and help those crying out for aid. Beside the Plaza there is a deep ditch where a murky stream runs. Many vehicles were lodged there. Including a bus. Anthony clambered into that ditch to help bring people out. The bus driver was pinned against the seat and could not be freed. The driver told him to go, go. The next wave was coming. “He didn’t want to leave him. But that wave came again and he was still in the water trying to pull the man out, the water came higher and the man told him to go, get out of here, go. So he got out of the bus and when the wave left, he went back there and the driver was dead.”

When Ray and Eta finally see their son, he is at sweaty, muddy work, dragging a body out of a car in the stream. “He was climbing out of the stream after getting some people out and as he was climbing out, he looked at us and he started crying. I hugged him, I was crying too, I told him, you’re okay, you’re alive, you’re okay.”

Anthony’s first words to his dad were asking for forgiveness. “Dad, I’m sorry about my truck, it’s all messed up…and the store, I’m sorry I couldn’t do anything about the store, I couldn’t stop those people from taking stuff.”

Ray and Eta held their son close, filthy and wet from the foul waters of the Pago harbor. They looked at the remains of their beautiful jewelry store, at people darting ecstatically down the main road with pockets crammed full of Wyberski gold and silver. Ray shook his head, “To hell with it son, we can always rebuild, we can get another car, another store. You’re alive and that’s all that matters. Let’s go home, never mind, just leave it alone.”

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