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Lahaina Strong!

We were recently on the island of Maui.  As our tour bus took us to our hotel (a nice upgrade because the originally-booked hotel was still leased by the Red Cross), we were cautioned to not ask anyone about the fire of August 8, 2023.  Residents don't want to talk about it, and it's still raw to them.  It would be okay if they brought it up, but we were asked not to.  We were also asked to not take pictures of the burned out homes or businesses or post them on the internet.  The burned structures we passed were ghastly.  The entrances to neighborhoods blocked by guards checking IDs and residents were heart breaking.

 

After a day of sightseeing, we had most of a day to ourselves.  Originally the schedule called for touring historic Lahaina.  Nearly half of our small tour group had cancelled when this activity was called off after the fire.  We pre-arranged a helicopter tour before we even left home.  The concierge service arranged for a taxi to take us on the hour-long trip to the heliport.  As it turned out, a husband and wife team ran this particular taxi service.  The husband took us to the heliport, and while cordial, he must not have had his second cup of coffee yet.  The wife picked us up for the return trip.

 

I cautiously asked her about a wall I'd seen on the way to the heliport that had pictures and what looked like awareness ribbons.  I wanted to sensitively inquire if this was a memorial to the fire victims.  She said, "Yes, the 115 confirmed dead.  There are still many missing."  She continued to tell us about that day.

 

I asked her how long she had to prepare for evacuation.  She said she'd known for about four hours they would have to leave.  The wind was blowing at about 80 mph and the roof was blowing off her home.  She knew either the roof and house would blow away or there would be a fire.  She loaded personal items and supplies into her vehicle, thinking the car would be mobile and be able to get away, whereas the house was stationary.  Her 81-year-old father lived in an apartment on Front Street, two blocks away, and she started toward his location to pick him up.  So many others were evacuating at the same time, and it was so hot, people were abandoning their cars along Front Street to escape the heat inside the car.  She was trapped by abandoned vehicles ahead and behind her, and she was forced to abandon, too.  Moments later, her car exploded along with all the others abandoned in the street.  She said it's visible on the video of the cars exploding.

 

I can't relay all the information she passed along during our hour-long ride, and it's too personal to make public.  She and her husband escaped into the saltwater of the ocean, trapped between hot and unbreathable smoke-filled air or the unbreathable water.  When the sun went down, wet people were becoming hypothermic.  It would be days before she knew her father had survived.  He and some neighbors made their way behind a Safeway grocery store.  The fire devastated the strip mall but skipped over the Safeway, sparing those taking refuge there.  She described many people trying to make contact with family members on the mainland, many who are on a family cell plan and maintain an 808 area code phone number.  Many homeowners are underinsured.  Many victims of the fire are displaced with no plans in motion for relief.  She is frustrated as an American citizen for 35 years since arriving from Viet Nam.  She thanked us for listening to her story, and said how much she needed to let it out.  We gave her a big tip.  She gave us a big hug.

 

When the fire devastated Lahaina in August, either I wasn't paying attention, or we didn't hear much about it in the center of the mainland.  It seemed to be a case of, "Fires rage in Maui with much destruction.  In other news, the home sports team lost last night."  When I left my home in February for my Hawaiian vacation, morning news reported about arguing in Congress about what kind and how much support and resources to send to Ukraine and Israel.  I don't dispute Ukraine and Israel are hurting.  However, I am incensed and outraged that politicians are not even discussing how to help U.S. CITIZENS!!  These are tax-paying AMERICANS!  I don't know [yet] what I'm going to do, but I'm going to do something to bring this to the attention of residents of the other 49 states.  We are all the UNITED states. 

 

If you feel even one percent of the indignation I feel, help spread the word that our fellow AMERICANS need help.  If you feel the need to reach out, https://www.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/maui-strong is a legitimate organization offering assistance to those in Lahaina.  I asked a Lahaina local resident for a source, and I've done the research.

 

Let's stay Lahaina Strong!



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