Asovalu Tuiasosopo felt the tremor on Sept. 29. But the 85-year-old family chief figured it was just another earthquake.
Then he glanced out the window of his home on the east side of American Samoa.
“My dad told me they had just gotten the grandkids off to school,” Manu Tuiasosopo, Asovalu’s son and a former defensive tackle for the Seahawks, said this week. “Around 7, it started shaking and he said, ‘OK, we’re having an earthquake.’
“But he lives right on the ocean and when he looked out the window the ocean was gone.”
What Chief Tuiasosopo was seeing was the beginning of a tsunami that had been triggered by the 8.3 magnitude earthquake, whose epicenter was 120 miles southwest of American Samoa.
“Five or 10 minutes later, the first wave of water came on land.” Tuiasosopo said. “Then the second wave got higher and higher. That’s when he turned to his wife and said, ‘We’d better run.’ ”
Asovalu and his wife made it to higher ground. “Barely,” Tuiasosopo said. “But they’re doing fine, fortunately.”
But life is hardly back to normal.
“On one side, it’s no power and no water. On the other side it’s just devastated with the floods,” Tuiasosopo said.
The damage created by the tsunami has ravaged Western Samoa and American Samoa to the point where President Obama declared the area a major disaster and ordered federal aid to supplement territorial and local recovery areas.
The Seahawks are doing their part by teaming with Medical Teams International and asking fans attending Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Qwest Field to make donations for Pacific Rim disaster survivors.
That’s where you’ll find Manu Tuiasosopo, as well. He’ll be soliciting donations outside Qwest Field.
“We certainly appreciate the Seahawks making this available,” Tuiasosopo said. “And of course Medical Teams International and what they’re going to be doing with that part of the world.”
Others already have gotten into the act. Middle linebacker
Tuiasosopo, who lives in Woodinville and works for Alaska Airlines, will be joined Sunday by at least one of his children – Matt, who played baseball this season for the Mariners and Tacoma Rainiers; and former Washington State quarterback Jack Thompson, aka “The Throwin’ Samoan.”
Tuiasosopo also is hoping that other members of his family will be able to join him. Marquis, a former NFL quarterback, is now a graduate assistant at the University of Washington. Leslie, an All-American volleyball player for the Huskies, is now associate head coach in the program. Zack is working in the area, raising his family and helping coach at Eastside High School. Ashley is a junior at the UW.
“Even with the economy the way it is now, people still find a way to help each other out,” Tuiasosopo said. “Certainly that’s the spirit we have here in the Northwest.”
For more information on the relief efforts click here.
Matt Tuiasosopo photo courtesy of Ben Van Houten/Seattle Mariners