My plan when writing a column is to try and be lighthearted and focus on Boulder City-related issues or fond memories from my past growing up here.
This is the exception.
While Boulder City has always been “home” to me, my second home is Hawaii. I lived on the Big Island from 1999-2012, the longest I’ve ever lived in one place. So, watching the devastation this past week and tremendous loss of life on Maui, which I visited several times, has saddened me greatly.
In addition to that, my amazing 21-year-old niece, Kayla, has lived on Maui since January of this year and is living her best life. Thankfully we heard from her early on and were able to communicate with her throughout this terrible ordeal.
At the time of me writing, the fires had claimed 96 lives, making it the deadliest wildfire in modern U.S. history. Gov. Josh Green said those numbers will sadly continue to rise with every passing day.
I told Kayla I was writing this column and asked if she could share her thoughts on what this past week has been like for her.
In terms of evacuating, she said, “It was terrifying. I had to get me and my cat out of there and the road I normally use was closed. I was preparing myself that I may lose everything. It was really scary.”
Fortunately, she had friends to stay with and once she was able to return to her home, it was still there.
As for Lahaina, she added, “It’s devastating to see. So many people lost everything they had. But it’s also heartwarming to see how people have pulled together to help one another.”
It’s that pulling together that makes Hawaii unique in some ways. When there are natural disasters in states on the mainland, there is obviously lots of support to help your fellow neighbor. But in Hawaii, the word ohana, which means family, is so very true. Whether it’s because Hawaii is so isolated that residents have always had to rely upon one another or the fact that since it’s so generational, many residents are related to one another in some way, Hawaiians have always pulled together in times of need.
During my time in Hawaii, I experienced the threat of hurricanes, tsunamis, wildfires, massive earthquakes and even lava. And while Hawaii is an amazing place to live, during natural disasters, that isolation is brought to light even more. Where do you go? Options are limited.
In watching the news coverage, it brought tears to my eyes seeing the utter devastation of how a prideful and historical community like Lahaina can be wiped away in such a short amount of time.
First and foremost, I mourn for those who lost their lives. Hearing stories of people having to jump into the ocean to avoid the flames … it’s almost hard to comprehend.
While officials will be trying to figure out a cause and whether or not more could have been done to prepare for, or prevent, this horrific tragedy, there is talk about rebuilding. But where do you start?
If, say a school burned down, you could put all your manpower and resources into that one project. But when you lose an entire community, how do you pick and choose?
Not only that, but Maui’s construction workforce is limited, not to mention getting enough supplies there these days. And say if you brought 1,000 workers from Oahu to help, where do you house them?
I started thinking about the people who lost their homes and all of those people now without a job. From a tourist standpoint, Lahaina is Maui in many ways.
With all the restaurants, shops, galleries and tours, it was the place to go when visiting Maui. The financial impact to the island is going to be felt for years, if not decades.
In the Hawaiian language, the word aloha has many different meanings, from hello, goodbye, a general feeling as well as love. So, to Maui, I send lots of aloha, as I’m hoping everyone else will do. Maui Strong.