Added August 31, 2023: It has been three weeks since the catastrophic Lahaina fire. It essentially has disappeared from news, replaced by the latest headline this morning “Idalia slams into Florida, Georgia”, and on the TV talk about how Congress may resist disaster relief – too expensive, too many. And the narrative about climate change…or not.
We were in northern Minnesota for a few days, and our host was talking about a relative who’d been to Maui in 1983, and commented then on the wooden buildings he’d seen, close together, on the island. A disaster waiting to happen. More or less “they should have known”. As it happened, we were in the dining room of a home in a town that was devastated by a “100 year flood” in 1997, in a location unlikely to be at risk, a long ways from the Red River of the North over 15 miles away. This didn’t protect the town, then. My reminder about this caught our host short…. Memories are short; needs are great; pre-planning is for someone else, later. The worst case “will never happen”, but always seems to, and today is more frequent, and of course, debated.
We can’t assure anything in our own future. Neither can our neighbors, no matter how nearby or far away. Society needs to step up to the plate when needed, and do the difficult thinking ahead to hopefully keep catastrophes to a minimum, whatever the cause.
Pre-note: Helping Maui recover. I asked my cousin, Georgine, who’s lived on the Big Island for years, and is very active there, for a reliable fund raising portal. Here’s what she sent:
Maui Strong Fund: Online
The Hawaiʻi Community Foundation started a Maui Strong Fund to support residents affected by the wildfires, which firefighting crews continue to battle in Lahaina, Pulehu/Kīhei and Upcountry areas. Individuals can donate here.
There is a credit card processing fee, but HCF will not take an administrative fee, and 100% of the money will be given to the service provider.
The fund has been seeded with $1 million.
Non-profits seeking funding can email a request email@example.com.
August 10, Georgine, my cousin who lives on the Big Island of Hawaii, sent a family update, which I think others might find of interest. This update is found at the end of this post. There is an immense amount of news on this tragedy. I mean no disrespect in taking a few moments to remember a short visit to Maui, including Lahaina, in 1985.
Here is a google map of Maui. The Big Island is southeast of Maui; here is a google map, including the locations of Kawaihae and Kailua-Kona. Hawaii is by far the largest of the Hawaiian Islands, about 5 times the size of Maui. Maui is about the size of Hennepin and Ramsey County (MN) combined. The Big Island is about 1/20th size of Minnesota.
Words seem superfluous, on the other hand, words can be cathartic as well. And since I’ve been there, albeit 38 years ago, words come to mind.
Maui is not densely populated. Maui’s most recent population is about 160,000; in 1985, when I was there, about half that.
The drive to Lahaina, the day after arrival, was just a leisurely day trip up the shore. The Banyan tree was a key memory; some pretty fast small crabs at the shore were also an attraction. Otherwise, Lahaina seemed just a tourist town. I don’t recall visiting any museums or such. I have a recollection of lava rock along the shore. It was a very pleasant day.
The next day was a drive up to the rim of Haleakala. It was not an easy drive – mostly up the mountain – about 50 miles.
Somewhere there are pictures, but they have to remain in memory. Vivid in minds-eye was the silversword.
38 years ago, the Lahaina tragedy was something I could not have imagined. Much of the Hawaiian islands are quite dry, but the usual image is verdant. This is a function of windward and leeward sides of significant mountains. But as we know, now, Hawaii is not immune to the same kind of problems as other places.
Of course, Lahaina is not the only tragedy in these days of instant and global communication. Some of the recent ones were recited at church this morning.
We are a global community. In the modern era, of international travel and instant communication, we cannot escape awareness of what is going on elsewhere in the world. We all share this space which is planet earth.
from Jeannie: Aloha
Maui and Lahaina will take a long time to recover. It is so very sad, especially when recovery from Covid times had just started to happen. Haven’t yet heard how many businesses were lost in the fire, and consequently how many jobs. Saw that the population of Lahaina was 13,000. They are all now homeless and there is so little affordable housing here. Maui is evacuating both tourists and local people to Oahu (Honolulu) convention center. There was no electricity in many parts of Maui, including some of the hotels. The airlines have been incredibly helpful as has the military and government officials from all parts of the state. People in Lahaina did not have time to collect anything because the fire went through so quickly. It is probable there will be more fatalities. They are still fighting fire and have not been able to do a full search and rescue.
Feel very lucky to still have the Kawaihae house. My thoughts are with the many people on Maui who have such huge losses. Please send this message to your family list Dick so that others know how lucky we are on Hawaii Island.
Love and aloha, Georgine