During Samoan language week celebrations from 26 May to 1 June, we’ll be launching our latest book called ‘The 1918 deadly epidemic in Samoa’ on 31 May 2019.
It’s been a labour of love, since 2016, when I became aware of the 100 years commemoration of this event that devastated Samoa’s people at the time and also affected my aiga (family) through the sudden death of my great grandfather in Fale’ula.
So over the last couple of years, I read reports, eye witness accounts and as much material that I could get my hands on to begin to write the story with as much detail as I could to give a view of what occurred to bring about this fatal disease to Samoa.
One thing that was so evident was that a captain of the ship purposely continued on his travels with sick passengers on board perhaps not realizing the devasting effect that it would have on three nations: Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa with thousands dying at each of the ports that they called into.
The really sad part for me was in realizing that it was avoidable with American Samoa closing its borders during that time with no ships coming in or out of the port. As a result, no lives were lost on the American Samoa islands but their cousins and family on the Islands of Upolu and Savaii lost many.
I also got to take my family to view the site of the mass graves in Vaimoso and to pay a silent tribute to those who had passed on. I also continue to take my children to visit the grave of their maternal great, great grandfather in Fale’ula in passing on this story.
So that as we come to launch this book and celebrate Samoa’s language week, we also think of those who lost their lives untimely and those who have left a legacy for the new generations to come. It wasn’t a story that I learned about in school or at Uni but in my family and one that needs to be told…