Top of Mind Thursday – August 10, 2023: A Hole in Paradise

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The first time we went to Hawaii, it was the mid-60s.

Jack Lord and James McArthur were shooting scenes for the original Hawaii 5-0 right outside our brand new hotel on Waikiki beach.

Waikiki was nice, but even then, a little too urban. Maui was gorgeous. The island was a series of dirt roads connecting a few small little enclaves. Kaanapali was just being built, and Wailea and Kapalua weren’t even on the drawing board yet.

The most intriguing part of the island was Lahaina Town–at that time about 6 blocks long, with the Baldwin House and the Pioneer Inn anchoring the town, and an incredible 100-year-old Banyan tree at the center.

We’ve visited almost all of the major Hawaiian islands, but it was Maui we kept coming back to, time and again—for the windsurfing, the food, the beaches, the culture, the upcountry arts areas, etc. We watched the island become built up and commercialized, and Lahaina Town expand into a full-fledged shopping and eating area.

This week, winds from Hurricane Dora caused intense firestorms that have devastated whole chunks of Maui, and devoured much of Lahaina. Both the Baldwin House and the Pioneer Inn burned to the ground. At least 50 people are dead, thousands are homeless, and the heart of this island is on life support.

Over the last half century, the Lahaina banyan tree grew and grew, to encompass an entire city block. Charred and battered, it’s unclear whether or not it will survive.

How can this happen in the tropics? Hawaii has suffered a drought over the last few years that turned Maui into a tinderbox. Dora brought hurricane winds, but no rain, and the result is an imaginable disaster. Yet another example of how climate change is wreaking damage to our planet.

Beyond the loss of life, it’s more than just homes and businesses that will need to be rebuilt. The Hawaiian people take their heritage and history very seriously. In 1802, Lahaina became the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom. Two hundred years later, much of that history has now burned.

Maui will rebuild, but it will take time, money, and support from those who feel the emptiness of a hole in our Hawaiian Paradise.

Maui Strong is collecting funds to aid those impacted by this week’s wildfires on Maui. Learn more here.

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