More from Maui

This homemade sign says it all | photo and post by Robb Petty

We recently posted a firsthand dispatch from West Maui by former Gate 6 ½ resident Robb Petty. Robb, a retired emergency room doctor, and his wife Jane returned there just days after the devastating fire, when they learned their home near Lahaina had been spared. Since then, they’ve had limited wi-fi connections, but Robb has managed to send along two more reports and a few photos of the recovery efforts. Here are lightly edited excerpts from those reports:

Services are starting to become available. Many stores are still closed for obvious reasons. Rumor has it that our Wi-Fi service will be reestablished at our house but not yet.

FEMA has established locations for the volunteers as well as the displaced citizens of Lahaina. Food is plentiful and is given out free. Several distribution sites have been funded and supported by the locals only and not the county government nor the federal government.

For many years I have heard the phrase trickle down economy. Now it has poignant connotations: along the Kaanapali coastline there are several hotels which are completely empty. And rightly so because communications and services are fragmented from the fire. However, shopkeepers and service employees are not only displaced but no longer have a source of income to support themselves. Jane and I are watching this unfold and figure that this stagnant section of the local economy will persist for several years, resulting not only in the displacement of those who have lost their homes but also those who have lost their businesses. Many will be forced out of Maui on the basis of underemployment. If you want to take a novel approach to giving aid, consider a visit to Maui and especially the Kaanapali and Napili area. Some misguided person sent a message not to come because of lack of facilities. Indeed, the resorts are closed down now, but be watchful and when they reopen, perhaps in October, come visit. The workers need work.

Many of you are poised and prepared to contribute to the recovery of our horrible loss. In addition to the local efforts from our Ohana (extended family), the Red Cross has been of valuable assistance. The Firefighters for Christ, which is the organization that came to assist firefighters in need, is an incredibly altruistic organization and certainly deserves monetary support. These firefighters arrived on the scene and had paid their own way in terms of flight, food, and transportation. Jane and I were blessed with the ability to accommodate three of them this last week. However more Firefighters for Christ are needed, and their donation site is available for you if so inclined.

During my perusal of organizations assisting in the recovery I have come across Eddy Garcia and his organization. I am personally intrigued with Eddy’s approach to recovery and wanted to send out his info in case his approach resonates with you. He is in the community of Olowalu, approximately 3 or 4 miles south of Lahaina. He is a farmer and is someone who has been living off-the-grid for several years. He is attempting to attract Lahaina residents of similar mind. He is building mini homes and setting up a living style that is self-sustainable. I imagine that his lifestyle may not be attractive to every one of you, but I at least need to present his intriguing approach to life in Hawaii.

Meanwhile, Jane and I are safe and are attempting to return to some semblance of a normal day. We are also poised and ready to volunteer when the opportunity arises. I don’t know what type of information about Maui reaches you, but Jane and I are preparing for a new kind of daily reality.

Yesterday at 5:00 p.m., Jane and I attended a memorial for the lost souls of Lahaina. It was a combined effort of the Buddhist, Hawaiian, and Christian community of Lahaina. The ministers of these churches helped conduct our prayer for recovery. The mayor was there, bravely, because he has incurred so much anger and resentment about the county’s involvement in controlling the fire. His presentation was prayerful and humble. We were especially glad to participate because there has been little time to grieve, reflect, and respect those who have died in this event. Pride runs deep, but so does resentment. The prevailing prayer was that we maintain the spirit of Aloha that has been deeply rooted in Maui.

The governor has issued a warning for people to avoid being victimized by parties who would prey on the survivors to sell their property, at much reduced rates. However, my concern is that the victims will the lured by large offerings for their properties which are essentially dust. Therefore, as we hope for a Lahaina that is peaceful and prosperous, the painful reality is that it will probably return as a large resort with a small memorial to the Lahaina that once was.

FEMA is pulling out of its involvement in the fire and its victims. Hotels who have housed the homeless from the fire are planning to evict them in order to provide rooms for the tourists. Where will the displaced go? I foresee a problem that seemingly has no solution. My miserable conclusion is that they will migrate to the continent, and we will lose the rich cultural Influence that is Maui. I have hope, but it is dwindling.

A sincere mahalo to all of you who have contributed towards the relief effort. From my viewpoint with boots on the ground (boots? No, flip flops), your efforts will not go unrewarded.