Country of Origin: Hawai’i (United States of America)
I thought it was strange that my mom called me so early in the morning. It was 7:30am for me, so it must have been 4:30am for her.
It was Wednesday, August 9th.
“I wanted to call you before you saw the news. There’s a fire in Lāhainā, Kīhei, and Kula. Everyone in our family is safe and accounted for. I might go pick up grandpa from Kīhei today. Your cousin was in Lāhainā, but escaped to Nāpili. Aunty has not heard from him since last night. I will keep in touch.” My cousin called my aunty the next day to check in. He was safe and helping with the boats looking for people and bringing in supplies.
We exchanged “I love youʻs” and “take care’s” before hanging up. I went to my social media (because I knew I would get news more quickly from the people I follow who still live on Maui) and saw the footage of the fire. My tears pooled as I scrolled through all of the unaccounted for posts, friends and classmates who hadenʻt heard from their loved ones since the fire.
Keiki (children) and kupuna (elders) unaccounted for.
The week was a blur of grief as I consumed the ongoing fires in Maui. Stories began to pour about people being trapped on Front Street, people jumping into the ocean to escape the fire, the alarm systems never sounding, and the realization that the fires swallowed more people than I could comprehend.
Lāhainā holds moments of my life that are now just memories. Memories that I can no longer physically visit because Lāhainā is gone, in ash. So many of my people have lost their home, the place that their ancestors are rooted. I don’t have the words to fully describe the immeasurable loss that is shared in our community. Those who were able to escape the flames made it out with just the clothes on their backs, while others were swallowed by the fire. And within these same moments of Lāhainā disappearing, Kula was on fire too, adding to the lives lost and people displaced.
115 lives lost and over 1,000 people still missing. Nearly three weeks later, victims are being identified.
The grief I feel is a collective grief, one felt by my Lāhui, Maui community.
We are grieving for the lives lost, for the friends and family, the keiki, and the kupuna who did not have time to escape.
We are grieving for our island, our ʻāina (land), the first capital of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi.
We are grieving for those who came before us and for those who will live after us.
But in this grief, we come together to kōkua (help/support) each other. From compiling GoFundMe and Venmo accounts, to cooking and giving out free food, the mass share of information and kāhea (call) to help, our Lāhui was able to get people the supplies they needed to survive.
Unfortunately, structures of colonialism make it difficult for Kanaka (Native Hawaiians) and Locals to continue their grassroots efforts to help those in need. Investors and realtors have already begun contacting the survivors of the devastating fires. Maui residents are pleading for tourists to cancel their trips and fly home,while the governor has opened the parts of the island not in ash to the tourists. Maui Electric Company is facing lawsuits that blame the company for the fire, and the man who was in charge of the alert system that never sounded has resigned.
First responders from Hawai’i and the continent are currently searching for remains with their cadaver dogs, while tourists take videos and photos of the devastation for social media clout and snorkel in the same waters our people jumped into to escape fire.
We can not just grieve, but we must also fight for our ʻāina and lāhui. And it is exhausting.
“We are Lāhainā Strong. Yes, but please allow us to also be, Lāhainā Sad. Lāhainā Tender. Lāhainā Worried. Lāhainā Messy.” – Uʻilani Tevaga
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