His name was Alfie, and he was just two years old. He had come to the Taufua Beach Resort in Lalomanu with his parents, both migrants from England and residents in New Zealand at the time. The night of 28 September 2009 at the Taufua Beach Resort restaurant, Alfie wanted to sit near other children; he asked to be sat next to our three children. Now I remember looking at him briefly and smiling at him sympathetically when it was not possible to make room at our end of the table. Everyone at the table was having a good time: communal eating is a Samoan cultural trait, and we were all either enjoying the local beer or other beverages. It is still difficult to comprehend that twelve hours later the whole place would be wiped off and thirteen members of the Taufua family would perish in that very place.
Alfie was his parents’ only child, their most cherished, their life. Alfie was taken away by the water the next morning. Unlike Clea, Alfie was never found. We have returned a few times to Lalomanu since: in October 2010 we went back twice to open the Clea Salavert Library at Lalomanu Primary School, and we took the boys back to a beach for the first time since 29 September 2009. In November 2011 we went back again a few times, to hand over the management of the Library to the Samoan Government, to check the Library out and to attend the Prize-giving Day at the School.
Even though I am now unable to remember his face, what he looked like, I often think of little Alfie. And I also think about his parents, who, on top of being completely destroyed with the loss of their only child, were left with no body to bury. With nothing at all. I often wonder how they are faring in this parallel, interminable journey of pain of theirs. For a while, Trudie kept in touch with Alfie’s mum. We know they went back to the UK and were living in Spain for a few months. Details were sketchy, scarce. Communication then ceased.
In October 2010 the four of us took the walk we could not finish a year before. We retraced our steps past the fales that were slowly being rebuilt on Lalomanu beach. A reunion then occurred: the man who helped me get my son out of the water recognised us. He then led us to the spot where Clea was found, by a huge tree trunk that eventually died because of the saltwater. Faleaga and his wife Masela recognised us from that morning. Faleaga grabbed his machete and cleared the way towards the place where the tsunami had dragged Clea.
It was hard to believe that so much vegetation had grown in just twelve months. The whole area between the seashore and the hillside had been inundated by seawater; needless to say, it eventually killed almost every plant on it. Samoans have their own words for a tsunami, Galu afi: the wave of fire.
That day we learned that their own little baby, Frazer, aged 2 months, had also been found dead right there, very close to where Clea was found on 30 September. He was ripped off his mum’s arms by the water. Faleaga and Masela had another daughter, Meri, whom he was able to take up the hillside seconds before the tsunami hit. It makes me glad to know Meri has a doll she can play with. We bought it for her in Apia, as an early Christmas present.
I sometimes wonder what sort of response Alfie’s parents got from the people who should have been there to support them. I wonder if, after the initial condolences and the worn phrases, they found themselves suddenly facing some unwritten cowardly code of silence, too.
I wish to say that Alfie deserves to be remembered, even by those who never met him, who never heard his voice or saw his smile. I feel I was fortunate to meet him, and I will never forget he had a life. Too short a life. I will never forget Alfie. I will never forget Frazer. Why would I forget. How could I forget.