The Lahaina fires August 8 2023

I returned from Sweden after a restful and contact rich summer of visits with family and friends sharing their laughs and tears, feeling rejuvenated and excited to return home to Hawaii. I was busy getting unpacked, prepared for my upcoming classes, and reconnecting with friends and family in Hawaii. So I called up one to catch up, he sails with a racing group out of Waikiki on Fridays and was working on a t-shirt design for their annual regatta in Lahaina. He sent me some shots of different designs to look over and we agreed to meet after work in Chinatown. I didn’t think anything the morning of August 8th, and I didn’t look at my phone once I left the house and only checked for messages from my friend to see that we were still on to meet. I arrived at the restaurant and we talked for a bit, catching up. After about an hour, I asked him about the tshirt design. He looked down and shook his head sadly, “Yeah, well I guess we won’t be needing the tshirts, at least not this year.”

I didn’t understand. Was there some politics? Some storm I hadn’t tracked on the radar? I asked, “Why not? What’s changed?” He looked at me in disbelief and said, “You haven’t heard about the fire?!” I had heard on the morning news, but didn’t really pay attention, since we have fires in Nanakuli regularly during drought conditions on most of the islands. He pulled his phone out of his pocket, showing me a photo of Lahaina in flames from a news channel.

As soon as I saw it, a huge stone dropped to the bottom of my stomach. Having lived through the firestorm of Oakland in 1991, I knew immediately this was BAD. People were almost certainly dead. I knew Lahaina well and one glance at the shoreline told me how large the area was. The morning I saw the clouds overhead heading towards San Francisco Bay of the Oakland fire, I knew this was huge and because the hills looked exactly like when I first saw the lava on the ridges on the Big Island, when it started erupting in the 1980s. Of course, when I got home, the news cycle was filled with this story. Given that fire, the Paradise fire after that, it seems incredible the fire department didnʻt know what they were up against with winds as high as they were together with the dry conditions and huge fuel load in the neglected fields nearby. Everyone was doing their best but it still resulted in too many deaths due to slow responses and poor decisions such as not sounding the alarm and to evacuate everyone.

Right now, the focus is on finding out what is needed now and to be sure to keep listening to what is needed in the future. To make sure I don’t forget, I decided to give to A Cup of Cold Water, a mobile mission already active in Maui before this tragedy and will be around long after the fire is put out. This way, their work will be part of my present and future giving.

The picture above is a still life composition of a moment of repose in the middle of busy daily life. How we rush from one thing to the next in this life, but it is the moments in between when we take a pause, like when a kiss brushes our forehead when a loved one is coming or goin, or sitting down for a minute to just rest and catch our breath. And in between all the quiet moments and the hectic ones, unexpected disasters appear without warning to disrupt the rhythm of our daily walk.