On September 30, 2009 the islands of Samoa were hit by a magnitude 8.0 earthquake that struck at 6:48 a.m. Local time and this quake caused a tsunami which brought 20 foot waves down on the villagers as they slept. Many bodies were recovered far inland in newly created swamps or runoff pools. Villagers continued to walk around in a fog while looking for their loved ones and their friends and neighbors.
At least 119 bodies had been recovered and many more are missing.
What does this have to do with Branson you may ask? There is a show which performs at the Dutton Theater in Branson that is called Island Fire and it is featuring not only natives from Samoa but from other Islands. Iefata and Rachel Saoleititi lost their two year old son Iefata Steven Jr.in the tsunami. The child was just about 2 years old and was staying with Iefata's family while the parents were in Branson performing in the show through the season until December.
Rachel has a newborn daughter Deanna who is in Branson with Mom and Dad. Bella Dutton a native of Samoa is the wife of Jonathan Dutton. That is the association between the folks from Samoa and The Island Fire show in Branson and the Dutton family.
On October 3rd a benefit show was performed by the Island Fire Dancers
and all the proceeds went to the Saoleititi family to raise money so
they can make an emergency trip back to their native island of Samoa.
My wife and I attended the benefit and sat in front of several family
members of the cast and watched the new infant sleeping completely
oblivious of the family tragedy. We visited with the family and they
told us of the added stress they were having trying to get a passport
for the new infant. It usually takes weeks to get one and they had only
days before the next flight which only goes on Tuesday each week. The
family has been on the phone with the hospital and the government
trying to expedite the process. Like always things seemed to be moving
at a snails pace and the family and friends were making plans to drive
to Dallas if necessary to move the process along. Several other members
of the cast also lost close relations. A performer Poinsettia Taefu
heard that her sister who was missing was located OK however she lost 3
Child cousin's. Almost all family members of the cast lost all their
homes and all they contained. Additional funds were also being raised
to assist them. The airfare needed was about $4,000 and was raised in
fact to this time over $20,000 has been raised. Other family members
and cast members aren't going to leave the show at this time so it can
continue and help raise more money and to make room on the flight for
immediate family members of lost love ones.
It has always been a tradition in Branson to join together to help those in need and this was a perfect example of just that kind of effort. Everyone works hard to help by doing something extra or by contributing to the cause. We understand they received the passport in time to make the Tuesday flight.
They told us that the airport in Samoa was closed so they would have to fly as close as possible then island hop to get to their home island.
You can read more about the Island Fire Show by going to this link located on the Branson website owned by author Donald Raether.