GUEST COMMENTARY - In the wake of a catastrophic wildfire that has left destruction and heartache, the tight-knit community of Lahaina finds itself grappling with urgent needs for essential services and support. The scenes of devastation I am witnessing saddened me beyond words.
The wildfire's rampage through Lahaina has wrought widespread wreckage, leaving our community in a state of profound distress. The immediate requirements of Lahaina are clear and pressing: the restoration of electricity and the reinstatement of internet and cell services. These basic utilities are vital lifelines currently severed, exacerbating the challenges our community members face. While governmental assurances of aid have been offered, local residents are struggling to ascertain the locations of available shelters and hotels because of tourists. Tragically, fuel shortages have stranded many, preventing them from escaping the perilous situation.
The distressing reality of looting, an occurrence I had hoped never to witness again, has reared its head in areas untouched by the flames. This unwelcome development highlights the immediate need for comprehensive support, ranging from vital supplies to safeguarding our community's security.
Having spent 46 years as a resident (except for my brief time in Southern California), I can unequivocally state that the situation demands immediate intervention. Countless lives have been lost. The last few days have borne witness to unimaginable challenges, with families forced to evacuate with just the clothes on their backs. My family, parents, and sister’s houses have been destroyed, along with our cherished possessions. Our whole town burned to the ground, including landmarks like my children’s elementary school in Lahaina Harbor, which was built in 1880, and which I attended.
At this juncture, Lahaina desperately needs relief efforts and additional first responders. The Westside is effectively incapacitated, and local hotels are regrettably compelled to turn away those in need due to a lack of available resources. While tourism has long been a cornerstone of our community's identity, and we love tourists, we implore visitors to halt their plans to allow us the space and resources to recover and rebuild.
In the face of such adversity, our community's unity and resilience shine brightly. Lahaina's recovery requires a coordinated effort from all fronts, and we are calling for immediate military assistance to aid in restoring essential services and infrastructure. As a resident who has called Lahaina home for so long, I urge understanding and empathy from all quarters. The current situation is more dire than words can convey. While Lahaina is eager to welcome tourists in the future, our plea is that, for now, the emphasis must be on recovery, support, and healing.
(Kesa Stoddart is a resident of Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii.)