Thursday, October 15, 2009

Oregon neighbors surviving in Samoa

10/14/09 Chatterbox
Betty Kaiser

The chilling news of the Samoa islands tsunami devastation swept through our neighborhood like a cold winter wind. A magnitude 8.0 earthquake had struck the Samoan capital Apia, about 7 a.m. on Sept. 29. The quake triggered a series of huge tsunamis waves, 15-20 feet high that traveled nearly a mile inland. With only 10 minutes warning, entire coastal families and villages were wiped out.

We were especially concerned because of our connection to that area. Our former neighbors Jack and Carol Bachelor were living in a village 45-minutes distance from Apia. The next day an email from Carol calmed our fears. The couple was alive. They had survived a life and death situation and lost all of their material goods but they were physically safe. We all breathed a guarded sigh of relief.

Jack and Carol Bachelor are longtime neighbors that we knew casually. They lived at the top of the hill. We live at the bottom. They were busy in their respective construction and banking jobs and raising a family. Retired, we chatted with them in the aisles of Cascade or Safeway, waved as they drove by and met at the occasional garage sale. Their move to Samoa to rebuild a resort that they had visited over the years was a surprise to most of us.

Lupe Sina Beach Resort is a beautiful place. Its setting encompasses the ocean, palm trees, tropical gardens and a spectacular waterfall. Until the tsunami the grounds included a large conference room and stage for conventions and meetings; a full-service restaurant and sports bar; 16 fales (bungalows), a gift shop and bicycle rentals. According to the resort’s webite, the fales were “just steps away from the soft white sand beach and crystal clear waters.”

In March Jack began roofing and painting the buildings at the resort. Carol joined him in June and their new lifestyle in a tropical setting was put into place. Now almost everything that they had hoped or dreamed for is gone. According to Carol’s email, “Our entire resort was destroyed. All of the beach fales were washed completely to the sea.”

But the worst part was the loss of life. Carol’s story has been told previously in the media but bears some retelling. It emphasizes the strength and compassion of the human spirit and reminds us of the power of Mother Nature.

On that fateful morning, during the earthquake, the couple stepped outside to discover that the ocean was gone! Jack immediately told Carol to run to higher ground. As she started running, he headed next door to warn his friend Kenny’s family. By that time the water was waist high and rising. He grabbed two of their babies but was forced underwater until… “The rising waters ripped one from his arms and was lost to the sea.” As the waves pushed him down, Jack tossed the remaining baby onto the rocks and fought for his life until the water receded.

Miraculously, Jack and Carol were reunited although he sustained a badly injured leg wound. Kenny was lost to the sea but his wife and one baby survived. 80-percent of Lupe Sina’s employees died.

The next day, Carol’s email from the U.S. embassy to family and friends began with these words: “Thanks be to God Almighty and his precious son Jesus, we are alive and well.”

Jack’s mother, Opal Bachelor, recalls her first short conversation with her son from the embassy. A voice (on a poor connection) said, “Call from Jack Bachelor.” Then, Jack’s voice said, “Hello, mom, hello!”

“How are you?” asked Opal. “We are alive!” Jack answered. Then he broke down. “I had the two little ones …”

They could only talk a few minutes but he called the next night and again, Opal said, “He could not get the baby out of his mind.”

Other conversations reveal the scope of damage both emotionally and physically. Opal observes that some days they are stronger than others but notes that “All they can talk about is death and destruction.”

Opal is encouraged that help is on the way. She oversaw the packing of one 20-ft. and two 40-ft. containers packed with personal items, household goods, a laptop computer, a tractor, utility trailer, tools and building materials. Other donations have come from Market of Choice and emergency supplies (baby formula, Ensure, medications) from a PeaceHealth clinic with shipping donated by UPS.

On Oct. 8, I received this email from Carol:
“Having survived something of this magnitude has strengthened both of our faiths. I am amazed everyday by the generosity and kindness of others. The people who survived the tsunami are rebuilding in the hills where the plantations are.

“There is still no water, electricity, sewer or in many places phone reception. But God is good. He provides beyond belief. Even when we give away (everything) that some one has been kind enough to drop off for us, we come back to a new supply. You can’t out-give God. He is our strength and our shield.

“They keep discovering more dead bodies daily. The Australian Army came in with German Shepherd search and rescue dogs and they are combing the area. The pictures that you see on TV do not do this justice. Entire villages, entire families have been washed away.

“God put us in Samoa for a reason and it is to help these amazing people. Any help you or your readers can provide is greatly appreciated. We will make sure it gets to those with the greatest need.”

The television show “Survivor Samoa” was filmed earlier this summer near the area of the earthquake generated tsunami. May I suggest that the true survivors are the Samoans without shelter, food, water, and blankets or loved ones. They are gritting it out day by day. Their reward is life, not a million dollars!
The Bachelors would like to help their new neighbors but need funds to do so. Donations in the their name are being accepted at all branches of Northwest Community Credit Union.

Betty Kaiser’s Chatterbox is about people, places, family, and other matters of the heart. Contact her via e-mail at

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