Maui Crisis: A Time to Help!


Keliʻi Akina, Ph.D., Trustee, At-Large

Words cannot describe the tragedy that has befallen our beloved residents and visitors on the island of Maui. The horrendous destruction from the wildfires, especially the loss of life and property in Lahaina, is shocking and brings overwhelming sorrow to everyone in our islands.

The disaster evokes the opening cry of the Book of Lamentations: “Nani ka noho mehameha ʻana o ke kūlanakauhale i piha i kanaka! Ua like hoʻi me ka wahine kāne make!” How lonely sits the city that was once full of people! (Lam. 1:1)

Lahaina has been a historical landmark for Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians. Lahaina served as the first capital of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. The Lahaina Heritage Museum preserved the history of the Hawaiian people in this region. Malu ʻUlu o Lele Park sits on top of an ancient Hawaiian pond. And many of our iwi kūpuna are buried throughout these hallowed grounds. But now, this beloved ʻāina is in ruins.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, which will long continue for those still living through it, an important truth emerges. We are all one people in this moment of crisis. Whatever differences we may have on the surface, we are the same at the core as we face unspeakable grief. Our unity will get us through this crisis. It is now time to comfort and serve those who are in the greatest need and begin the long journey of recovery.

Photo: Trustee Akina helps to carry donations
Trustee Akina helps to carry donations for victims of the Maui fires into the state capitol. – Courtesy Photo

The outpouring of compassion we are witnessing from the people of Hawaiʻi is the silver lining through the dark cloud of despair. On my home island of Oʻahu, immediately after the wildfires ravaged Maui, I joined scores of volunteers at the state capitol building to collect supplies that were donated by thousands of residents. I saw, firsthand, the generosity of the people on Oʻahu and their support for the victims on the Valley Isle. On the island of Maui, Native Hawaiians coordinated large-scale disaster relief in a parade of boats which brought much needed supplies to residents, as reported by the Washington Post.

I also have much admiration for the local, state and federal first responders who have devoted themselves to saving lives and providing aid to those who have been displaced. My heart has ached as emergency personnel and volunteers have searched through burnt ruins and offshore waters for hundreds of lost family members. The rising death-toll is shocking, bringing with it a wide range of emotions, from sorrow and grief, to anger and outrage. And for the survivors of the flames, there is the challenge of rebuilding their lives, homes, jobs, businesses, and communities.

The path to full recovery will take many decades. Difficult questions will have to be answered, and eventually there will have to be accountability. Let us pray that our public officials will face this tragedy with truthfulness and humility, and that all of us will holo mua together toward the solutions which Maui needs.

For now, our kuleana is clear. Let us exercise aloha and help those in need. Here is a list of reliable organizations to which we can send contributions:

E hana kākou! (Let’s work together!)