A tribute to an everyday hero

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Mata'afa Keni Lesa

A tragedy is not a place to find a heartwarming story. 

It’s a place of mourning and sadness. It’s a place no one, not even the bravest among the living souls, would dare to venture.

For good reason. 

It’s a terrible time, it’s a dark hour defined by a unquestionable sense of loss and a time of unimaginable suffering. 

The tragedy of last week at Puipa’a, where a 58-year-old father from Leauva’a died when a mini van crashed into the gas tank of a bus he was in, causing an explosion, is no exception.

As a nation, it’s hard not to be affected. 

We are humans after all and as a nation of Christians, the scriptures tell us to mourn with those in mourning – just as we should rejoice when moments of joy arrive. 

The death of Tanielu Pati Seinafo is a tragedy in every meaning of the word and we join the family in mourning today. 

We know he did not deserve to die under those circumstances. 

The world is sadder place with him gone.

Why? Well it’s simple; he was a good man, a great man in fact. 

He wasn’t a man of stature or someone everybody would know but he was special to the people who knew him. 

Most importantly, he was a man who utilized his God-given gifts to make the most of what life threw at him.

Prior to his death, Tanielu’s life was featured in the Samoa Observer’s Village Voice. He was spotted growing cabbages, which is what he did best.

His excitement about his world was contagious. He wasn’t complaining about anything or anyone. Rather he found joy in the simple pleasures of life. 

That included the ability to provide for his family.

 “I have been in the vegetable industry for a very long time now,” he shared with the Village Voice. “I have been able to grow many different types of vegetables right throughout my life. As you can see the cabbages are starting to mature. This is the work I do to take care of my family.”

And care for his family is something Tanielu did right up until his last breath.

Which is the heartwarming story within the tragedy of last week.

Yesterday, Tanielu was hailed a hero. The accolade came from his niece, Jacinta Tavita, who will forever be grateful to the deceased for saving her baby’s life.

The baby by the way is also named Tanielu. 

When the accident occurred, the two fell off the bus but the deceased had managed to cuddle the toddler securely, saving his young life. 

The story is that Jacinta and her baby had hopped on the bus at Vaitele. It was a full bus so Tanielu offered to take the baby while the mother looked for a seat somewhere out the back. 

“When we got to Puipa’a, I heard a loud bang coming from the side of the bus and that’s when I saw a part of the bus being torn off,” Jacinta remembered. “Then I saw Tanielu and my son fell off together on the road. I yelled and I felt that the bus had ran over something like a hump.

 “When I rushed to where my uncle was lying, he was holding baby close to his chest. It was a really sad scene; his body was all covered with blood. I went numb because I thought my baby was dead.”

What happened next is something she would remember forever. 

“He didn’t say a word. He was just pointing his hand to baby indicating he was okay. At that time, he was still bleeding from the mouth.”

A few moments later, Tanielu died.

Baby Tanielu on the other hand is alive and well. He lives thanks to the courage of the elder Tanielu. It’s a heartwarming story within a tragedy.

We cannot help but wonder what could have happened if Jacinta was blown off the bus holding her baby? It could have been a double tragedy.

But let’s be grateful that it is not.

Today we want to whisper a prayer for Tanielu and his family. Let’s pray for comfort and peace in what will undoubtedly be an extremely difficult time.

 A hardworking father who died saving a life, he is without a doubt a hero. He will be sorely missed by those who knew him and the loved ones he leaves behind. 

Rest in love Tanielu you great man! Have a safe Friday Samoa, God bless!

© Samoa Observer 2016

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