There but for the grace of God …

The proverb attributed to the 16th century statement by John Bradford actually reads, “There but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford”, in reference to a group of prisoners being led to execution.

But with a minor change to “There but for the grace of God, go we’, it is equally apt when we first learned about the category 5 cyclone in the Pacific and then received reports of the havoc it had wreaked in Tonga and then Fiji.

It is a very understandable human emotion that while we have sympathy for our neighbouring islands, there is a huge sense of relief that it was not our turn – this time.

And it’s not as though we are unaware of the possibilities we will experience natural disasters at this time of the year but for all of us, it is always a huge sense of relief when we get through another cyclone season unscathed.

For many of those who suffered badly in 2012 when cyclone Evan tore across our islands, the memories are still fairly raw and the pain is still felt as people struggle to rebuild, repay the costs involved and recover. 

Further back in history there were major lessons learned after the 1889 Apia cyclone when supposedly experienced Pacific seamen from Germany, America and Britain chose to stay in the harbour instead of riding out the 160km/h winds in the open sea.

For Samoa and other countries around the world, further disaster lessons have been learned with lives being lost when earthquakes triggered tsunamis and the importance of early warning systems coming into play.

Access from coastal areas to the safety of higher ground and secure shelters have also become priorities.  

Meanwhile, as we breathe a sigh of relief for our own safety, as Pacific people our hearts also go out to the Tongan and Fijian people.

And while the majority of them are safe, many have not only lost their shelter and all their belongings, but also their food sources and livelihoods.

For those Fijians living in Samoa, there will have been anxious moments as they waited to be reassured by families that they survived this devastating storm.

It would also have been a worrying time for many Samoans whose family members live in Fiji or study at the University of the South Pacific.

And while there is little love lost between our Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, you can rest assured that at a time such as this, our Government and others in the region, will put aside personal and national differences to offer sympathy, practical and financial help to the members of our Pacific family who this time were unlucky.

It’s the Pacific way. 


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