First and foremost, my heart is heavy. The destruction that occurred on our island is still hard to comprehend. Sometimes, it feels impossible to process the scope of it all. Two weeks have passed, and the tales of devastation and anguish persist; yet, they’re still somehow growing. Words fail to adequately convey the depths of our communal sorrow. The collective magnitude of our community loss—Maui is in the throes of suffering the worst natural disaster in the modern era. Our hearts truly ache. There have been over 100 people confirmed dead and reportedly 850 people still missing. An unimaginable nightmare…
Maintaining a sense of hope in these trying times is a real challenge. Still yet, glimmers of aspiration exist. A collective sense of community perseverance is managing to break through. Our quintessential spirit of aloha rings louder than ever. These following words and photos highlight 4 such stories: featuring the powerful forces of courage, hope, love and gratitude. The overwhelming outpouring of love and kokua that our island has experienced recently.
An old friend of mine recently lost his home and all of his possessions in the West Maui fire. Moses and his family barely escaped with their lives from the fires that engulfed nearly all of Lahaina town. Despite losing all of his possessions, he’s been able to maintain a positive attitude for the things that truly matter most in life. Most importantly, he still has 2 small children, a wonderful partner, and an amazing support system from his family in Wailuku. Gratitude is his attitude.
Another glimmer of hope emerges from 2 dear friends who captain voyages through Trilogy Excursions, one of Maui’s best known nautical ohana. With unwavering determination, they were some of the first responders along with the coast guard that helped rescue about 50 people who were treading water after jumping into the smoky ocean off of Front Street. Captain Riley has also been driving a U-haul brimming with essential supplies to donate to families in need in West Maui.
Local fisherman have really stepped up huge for our community as well. After the fires, the road into Lahaina was completely shut down for vehicles driving in. Enter Captain Chimo Shipp, of Fresh Fish Maui, and his dedicated crew. They swiftly embarked on multiple daily missions to Lahaina town by boat. Carrying hard to find essential supplies like gas and propane to donation centers and so many families in need. When our government put up a roadblock for vehicle access into Lahaina, Chimo and other local legends stepped up from the ocean. While Chimo is just one individual, he symbolizes a tapestry of island wide support. One woven by countless efforts; all united by the desire to help, and live their lives with compassion for others.
My friend and local community leader Kainoa has helped spearhead Maui Rapid Response: an ahupuaʻa based disaster response team made up of individuals from the Maui community and a number of nonprofit and direct-aid organizations. As a decentralized citizen collective, Maui Rapid Response is driven entirely by community values and needs, with a commitment to prioritizing support for native Hawaiians and vulnerable members of our local community. Kainoa has been boots on the ground from day one, and has helped organize some incredible efforts working around the clock. Check out Kainoa’s recent interview on CNN below:
These glimmers of hope, varied in their forms and significance, are cherished beyond measure by our community. Ever since the wide range of damage has been discovered, I’ve encountered stories of neighbors, extending aloha to those in need. Families are helping families. A community continues rising up. Each narrative illuminates the darkness for those navigating the most tumultuous times. These gestures of generosity, kindness, and compassion emit a profound light of hope to those in our community that have been stripped of so much.
Symbols of hope are also emerging from the ashes of Lahaina Town. The iconic 150-year-old Banyan tree in Lahaina seems to have endured the wildfire’s devastation, symbolizing an unwavering promise for the people of Lahaina Town. Equally remarkable is the story of the 175-year-old Maria Lanakila Catholic Church, which miraculously emerged untouched by the flames. Another steadfast emblem of hope.
The accounts of people aiding one another are plentiful and immeasurable. Our first responders, our countless volunteers, and our community has risen to extraordinary heights. Every contribution, no matter the size counts. Each act of kindness, no matter how big, carries weight. Our path to recovery will be long, and will stretch across many years. Our wounds are deep, and the journey toward healing promises to be an arduous one. This will be a marathon and not a sprint.
To all of you who have offered financial assistance, resources, kindness and compassion, please know that you radiate strength and hope for Maui. We are super grateful for you all. If you are in a position to make an ongoing monthly contribution to the Maui based organization of your choice, that will go a long way to supporting our island for this long journey together.