Lumepa Hald Relives the Agonising Heartbreak of Losing her Firstborn to the Devastating 2009 Tsunami

"I never closed my eyes in the sea though it was cold and dark. I knew my young daughters were in it helplessly looking for me"


In the early hours of 29 September 2009, residents and tourists of Samoa’s east coast faced a devastating blow when two large earthquakes struck midway between Samoa and American Samoa.

The earthquakes generated tsunami waves of up to 22 meters (72 feet) that engulfed the shores, claiming the lives of at least 192 people—149 in Samoa, 34 in American Samoa, and 9 in Niuatoputapu, Tonga.

The devastation extended beyond human casualties with houses destroyed, cars swept out to sea and some villages being virtually annihilated. With over $200 million dollars in damages, the islands were ravaged both physically and economically.

Police and rescue workers in the aftermath of the 9 Sept 2000 tsunami, Lalomanu, Upolu Samoa.

Samoa Global News Contributor Lumepa Hald and Jonathan Long lost their 9 year old daughter, Moanalei Sarah and each year, Mepa takes to her art of writing to remember the impact thst day had on the heart and souls of Samoa’s people.

Once again, Lumepa Hald pens the agony and heartbreak of that September Tuesday in 2009, and shares it with us in loving memory of all lives lost.

This is Mepa’s most powerful one yet…

She Made Life Beautiful by Lumepa Hald.
Moanalei Sarah Long cuddles her younger sister Galoiolalealofa. Moanalei would have turned 23 in July.
The lorry of piled dead people covered with blue tarpaulin is a tsunami memento in my thoughts.
The running feet of youth to carry their loved ones and look for strangers all buried by the sea.
The disappeared coast except for some crooked leafless trees.
The howling sea receding like a snake.
And the stumbling and sometimes naked survivors.
Fathers and mothers wore their broken hearts in their eyes. Their children were nowhere or somewhere drowned.
In our immense grief, it felt like God was missing. At least, we felt an empty hole in each of our hearts.
I still hear her in the silence of a church building beside the sea. I see her face in the trees when mist rises over the valleys of Aleipata hills. I feel her trembling embrace. I can’t hold back my tears. And I
fall apart in her small arms still.
She screamed out to me amidst the loud crashing of waves and the running feet of people I couldn’t see.
“Muum, muuum…hurry.”
I think of her scared eyes. I think of both my daughters in my shaky hands. Where I’m torn holding one and losing the other.
Where I think that it should have been me instead. And I think the sea should have swallowed me up too.
I never closed my eyes in the sea though it was cold and dark. I knew my young daughters were in it helplessly looking for me.
In the sea of the tsunami, I felt the terrible loneliness of dying alone. I felt the emptiness of any mother’s sudden loss of her beautiful children.
Moanalei, my nine year old daughter with long brown flowy hair was found inside a blue tarpaulin.
Her father carried her up from the rubles she was buried in. Her arms were held out as if she was urging me to hold her one last time.
Lalomanu Beach, 9 Sept 2009.
I felt she was holding me forever.
Our first born as young parents was suddenly breaking us to pieces.
Galoiolalealofa, was five years old. She said her sister saved her. Moanalei had held her hand and pushed her up from the deep.
It seems Moanalei never let go of her sister even after she died.
Galoiolalealofa (also known as Galo) tells me now that her sister is fine. Moanalei visits in her dreams to tell her she’s happy.
Galo forgot that when Moanalei died she used to cry inconsolably and say to me,
“Mum I don’t want Moanalei in the clouds. I want her here with me.”
As we think of the tsunami day, Galo and I hold each other and we remember her sister with warmth.
Our memories of Moanalei have over the years changed us. Moanalei turned the dark sea to wings of doves filling up the skies.

She’s in our dreams flickering rainbow colours through large windows.
So that we may believe in love and ourselves again.
She takes our prayers and hangs them inside the pretty moonlight of Lalomanu.
Graves of loved ones look joyous like red and yellow flowers covering green fields for miles.
And the space between heaven and earth whispers in the sea breeze. It says, “We love You forever Moanalei.”
Galo, who is now 19, attending University, wrote a poem recently for her sister.
We include it here as a token of love to all the victims of the tsunami day 29th September 2009.
Dearest Moanalei,
You left without saying goodbye
Only God knows why
He opened the gates for you
But only if I knew,
Your path was already made
I would’ve asked for more time
I would’ve held onto your hand longer
To make it less harder
I would’ve told you I love you
Before God took you
My last memory of you wouldn’t be so distant
Everything would be different
If you left saying goodbye.
Galoiolalealofa Sylvia Long.

Lumepa Hald