Lahaina Fire: Stories of Survival, Strength & Healing in Maui, Hawaii - Sakamoto Properties

Lahaina Fire: Stories of Survival, Strength & Healing in Maui, Hawaii

Home » Betty’s Hawaii Real Estate Corner » Lahaina Fire: Stories of Survival, Strength & Healing in Maui, Hawaii
September 21, 2023
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Betty Sakamoto: Aloha and welcome to Betty’s Real Estate Corner, brought to you by Coldwell Banker, Sakamoto Properties. We’re here now, it’s almost two months since the fires in Lahaina, and my daughters with me today, Julie Sherlock and she’s been back. She’s a Lahainaluna graduate and has been back spending time with some of her friends who are here and it’s not a simple task to just be here and be involved. Elizabeth Quayle is here, and they’ve had people in their home since the fires, up to maximum capacity. Danny Couch with I Love Hawaii, for the record, we all still love Hawaii. We love Maui and Maui will flourish. Lahaina will come back, and it will all be okay. But today it’s not and we’re going to try to talk about whatever we know that’s happening. I think most of you already have found help in one way or another. We’re all doing our best to assist any time that we can. Here we are again. It’s been two months since the fires. What are you thinking right now, Elizabeth?

Elizabeth Quayle: The thing that I take with me on a daily basis, and I’m normally this way anyway, but we live in the most magical place in the world. The ocean’s beautiful, the trees are beautiful, the people are everything. There isn’t one person that I see that I don’t want to hug. Every single park, every single parking lot, medical food, the attention that our Ohana has put into our community, and the attention that we get from our friends from the mainland.

BS: Yes.

EQ: It’s a miracle. It’s a miracle. We have to try and take what good we can and move forward.

BS: I absolutely agree with you, Elizabeth. It’s so hard right now. You’re right. We all see our friends and often, in those early days, Roy and I were up at the golf course and there was a huge moment where there were waiting for, I talked about this on the last radio show, but we were waiting for the county to come by with a lot of supplies. People sat there from 2 to 3 hours plus, just waiting so that they could get in line and get whatever it was that they needed for wherever they were going. People were totally lost. Every time you talk to another car, you’d walk up to someone and so often it would be someone that I knew, didn’t necessarily know their name, which is always very embarrassing, but maybe we’ve just been around a long, long time. But you’d start talking to someone and all I could say was your house, like just as a question, your house? And usually, they would just nod, “Yeah, it’s gone”. Then we’d talk about what they needed and who was at their house. So often it wasn’t just the family. It could be in one case, it was 15 people. Later when they were trying to get some things from the county, somebody asked them how many people were in their family, and they said, “Two or three”, something like that. If I heard it, I would say, “No, I think you have 15 people staying with you right now”. And she said, “Yes, but they’re not my family”. And I said, but you still need everything for them. I think that is one of the blessings that went on. Elizabeth lives in a not huge place. How many people did you have in your house then?

EQ: You know what? First of all, I am so grateful that we have a little house in Napilihau.

BS:  It’s spectacular.

EQ: A husband who loves me and the people that came running to our home for shelter. There is no better compliment than to know that people feel our house is a safe place to be.

BS: It is not only a safe place to be, but it’s a haven for animals. There’s a number of dogs and cats that she has. They’re right on the gully, more or less, or right behind looking back toward Kapalua. It’s not a huge home, but when you walk in there, it’s as big as any other home. Maybe feels bigger because it always feels that way.

EQ: You know, we had friends from Wahikuli, who were able to get away with their animals, and Dave and I had been on the other side on Tuesday. So, we spent the night in our car in Maalaea and then were able to pick up generators and come around the back way. That’s always fun.

BS: It was a nightmare.

EQ: But anyway, when we got home, we had all of these people in our home and my two sons were coordinating things for us. Our friends were like, “don’t worry, we’re sleeping on the lanai, we’ve got everything ready”. And God bless them. The minute everybody went to bed, it started raining. There are blessings and then there are blessings.

BS: I think rain was the greatest blessing of all time. Even though we weren’t experiencing any fires out in our area, it still was a time that if you heard just a little bit of rain on the house, you just were thanking because you didn’t know what was going to happen next and everything was already dry. But the rest of us were already blessed.  But just again, I just give you so much credit to be able to do that and to come home. And like you say, you were happy the boys were there. They were taking care of stuff. People were sleeping everywhere. The animals were all fine. Life is good. Life is great.

EQ: It’s the small things.

BS: It’s the small things.

EQ: Small things like, nobody had power, we got the generator. Alex brought the barbecue over.

BS: Yeah.

EQ: Everybody was giving out food. We had enough food for all of these people and then went and gave it to the neighbors because again, our ohana just stepped up and kicked loving butt, everywhere you go.

BS: Absolutely.

EQ: Everywhere you go. Well, I went to the post office because, of course, my P.O. box in Lahaina is toast. We went to the Civic Center to try and collect their mail. We had gone to Wailuku for several days to do that, and the wait the first day was a little over 3 hours. The people in front of me and behind me had all lost their homes. How could I whine about standing in line for 3 hours when they had my mail, and I had my home?

BS: Absolutely.

EQ: It’s just so plain.

BS: Absolutely.

EQ: We’re so lucky.

BS: Here today with us is also Julie. Julie Flynn Sherlock, who is my daughter, and she came here because she’s a graduate of Lahainaluna, a class of 1982. She had already been talking to a lot of her classmates about what was going on and many of her classmates also were in a position of having lost their homes and their hearts are broken. She was pretty determined to get here as soon as she could. You’ve been here now a week and a half, which was probably the perfect time to wait. How did it feel for you when you first got here and got to see your friends?

Julie Sherlock: I think I’ll just go back a little bit further to the day that I heard the fire was happening. I think the hardest part being on the mainland was all of a sudden communication was broken.  We couldn’t get in touch with you or Roy and that was just really hard. Couldn’t get in touch with friends. Thankfully, my parents were safe and when the time was right, I felt like I waited until I came out here on the 11th. Just over a month since the fires had happened and I felt like the time was right to be here. It’s been so great to just get together with my friends, even if it’s just a walk. I think so many of them have gone through so much trauma with this fire. Their stories are incredible, how they helped each other, helped strangers somehow made it out of Lahaina during that horrible day.

BS: Your friend who started at the post office, what happened there? Because that’s almost a miracle by itself.

JS: You were mentioning, the Lahaina Town Post Office. My friend was, I think, the manager there, my classmate and one of my very dear friends. She stayed at work till about I think it was three in the afternoon and then locked up everything and just said, I really need to go and went on foot South on, Front Street.

BS: Didn’t have a car with her.

JS: Didn’t have a car with her. Went to check on her friends. Her friend was out already kind of near Fleetwoods and then went further south and she ran into her brother, who was going in a truck, going North. And she said, he said, get in the car, and she said, well I’m not going to get in the car if we’re going to go that direction because I want to check on our auntie. They turned the car around and went South towards Puamana. They lived in a neighborhood near Puamana, and they were able to, the Auntie had already left and then they were able to safely get out on the South side of Lahaina. I could tell that it was very difficult for her. I could see it in her face when I first met her. The day that I got in after I think was the next couple of days, I set up a time to go meet her. She’s staying at a hotel in Wailea. And I said, what if I just come over and we just go for a walk, you know? So, we did. I went over. I met her.  We just went for a really nice walk together, and I just let her talk and vent a little bit and just kind of describe what she went through. And then I said, do you want to run any errands? Can I take you anywhere? Then we went and ran some errands, and we laughed a little, and cried a little, but I think the main thing is, that old saying “can, can, no can, no can”. If you can help somebody right now, it doesn’t matter if it’s money or, it doesn’t have to be that it can just be your time. Spend some time with a friend who has been hurting from this fire and go take a walk. Listen, give them a hug.

BS: Talk about the old times.

JS: Yeah, talk about the old times. Maybe laugh a little. Another friend of mine lost their family home, multi-generational home as well. And we met, we walked and then we floated in the ocean. We were at Napili Bay, and we just floated in the ocean together and just talked. You look around and realize there’s so much beauty here and we need to just hold on to that beauty and know that we’re going to rebuild. We’re going to work together as a community and all sorts of ohana are going to come out of the woodwork. It’s not only the people that live here. Maybe it’s the people that have visited here and want to come and help or do something. We’re all in this together and I just hope that we can continue to be there for each other. I’m really happy to be here.

BS: I totally agree with you. We are all in this together and I think a lot of people have made small and large contributions and it does seem they’re getting back to people. I hope that works that way. And I don’t have a name or anyone right now to mention or say to call, but there is somebody in your life and if you aren’t getting the right answers, you’ve got to just look a little bit further. You could call us at Betty Sakamoto (808) 870-7062. If I can help you get an answer, I will. I think that we’re one of the fortunate people that we lived away from Lahaina town. Our house is fine and we’re okay. But I think that there are answers and people are trying to help. I think it’s hard. It’s hard right now and you’re going to have to probably get kicked around a little as you try to get the right answers. I think if we all try to be as patient as we can, it’s going to be difficult, and everybody will have their own set of issues. But again, today, we kind of thought, what were we going to talk about? And we thought, let’s just talk again about what’s going on. Nobody wants to hear about real estate. I mean, that doesn’t make any difference today. But I think for everybody if you can just keep asking questions, no matter who it is, Elizabeth may have some answers.

EQ: (808) 276-6061.

BS: (808) 276-6061 and any of us will give you an opportunity to you know, we’ll try to help you find an answer if we can. I know it’s not going to be easy for anybody, but we’ll all give it a shot, you know, trying to see if we can help. But I think we have to all be a little Oh, I don’t know. I don’t want to say, patient. I’m the most impatient person in the world.

EQ: You know, I want to give a shout out as you were speaking about getting answers, I can tell you that every single morning my husband and I would get up in the morning and go drive through town to see what’s going on in every single National Guard, police officer, fireman because we’ve got firemen that with whom we train as well. Everybody is so kind and so helpful. They don’t if they don’t know the answer, they don’t know the answer. They’re here to take care of us. And they have had their arms around us since day one.

BS: Well, I think you’re right about that. And surely our police force here, our fire department, and everybody else, there have been times that everybody’s angry at something somebody didn’t do. I still think we’ve got to applaud all of the people, the fire department, the police department, anyone that’s been working, has worked hard, and always remember that there were fires going on three different places. It wasn’t just Lahaina, it was up in Kula and it was also Kihei. When you think that our departments were trying to take care of fires and problems that were going on in three different locations, that’s huge for a small fire department or a small police force. We have all the problems of a huge, huge area and I think it is a limited number of body counts. This really took precedent and everybody that they had, and we did lose. I know a firefighter, I don’t remember exact numbers, but it was the injuries and there were so many things that happened that we’ve got to pray all the time for their families, too. And think of the spouses that were left at home wondering if and when their husband or wife was going to be coming home and afraid for children, etc.

EQ: Well, a lot of them lost their homes and they were getting up the next day and still going to work.

BS: That’s right. There were a number of firefighters, police officers that lost their homes at the same time.

EQ: Doctors, nurses.

BS: Yeah.

EQ: All of the people that were helping us through this.

JS: I was going to say really quick to the other day, I was walking with one of my classmates and we stopped and got a coffee at, I think the Marriott in Kaanapali. And we talked to a FEMA worker. The FEMA worker was a FEMA reservist. She has a regular job that she works. She was from Washington, D.C., and she was here. They called her up and her job is secure. And she goes to natural disasters all across the country that occur at a minute’s notice. And she was so kind, and she was so touched by the people of Lahaina. She said, everyone is just so friendly and so kind and we’re all working together. And she felt that sense as she worked with people that were in need. I guess my point too is to let’s also thank all of the different people that came from across the country to come out and help our community. And, you know, the FEMA workers, the Red Cross workers, and I know they’re all doing I guess my other suggestion would be, you know, fill out everything. I’m sure she’s been, you know, getting to the range of FEMA out there, filling out the support you need because they are here to support you.

BS: Absolutely right. I think Julie’s also right about it’s so annoying to have to fill out forms and you seem to get the same form from point A and then you go to point B and they want you to fill the form out and point C, but somehow there’s a reason behind it and we can’t fight the system. If you have to fill it out three times, four times, keep doing it and just do your best and ask for help if it’s too hard, or get somebody behind you or in front of you or tell the person that’s behind the desk, I really need help doing this. Could you just give me a couple of extra minutes? I think that there are people around I’ve heard that we were at the Civic Center at one point for something, and I was hearing that they had some psychiatrists or psychologists that were there and talking to people. If somebody wanted to just take 10 minutes with someone, they were available, you know, but you have to ask for help. I think that’s hard, too, because we all think we’re really tough. And someone says, you might just want to chat with someone for a minute, but the first reaction would be, No, I’m fine, I’m fine, but most of us aren’t fine, even if you didn’t lose anything so that the people who have lost at different times will probably have to ask for help, whether it’s from Julie or Elizabeth or Betty. When that happens, let’s all take a moment and try to sit down. Like Julie said, if you just said, let’s sit down, let’s have a cup of coffee, let’s do something, I think you’re providing someone with your own psychiatric help.

JS: Comfort.

EQ: And it helps you.

BS: And it helps.

EQ: And it helps you. One more thing and I will quit interrupting you.

BS: No, you’re not.

EQ: Well, I was standing in line at the post office. I will tell you, there were volunteers across the street who brought every person in line, a plate, lunch, and water, and the people working inside the post office. Those guys were not taking breaks. They were person after person after person. So, thank you to everybody that’s done so much.

BS: Absolutely.

EQ: We’re so grateful.

BS: You know, on the way here, Julie and I start talking about and this might help people a little bit. There are now some restaurants that are opened up, and I think that helps a lot of us in different ways, especially when you are busy and you’re doing things. If we come up with some of them, Roy’s opened up yesterday and they were doing more of a bar service, but they had a good lunch menu, and you could get something to eat all around the bar there. Sea House in Napili and Napili Kai, Duke’s in Honua Kai, Leilani’s, and the Honolua store.

JS: Oh, in the Honolua store, ABC.


JS: I’m excited about that.

BS: And that helps.

JS: I think you know as businesses open, I think it’s also good to remember that they need us too. When you can, do it, get out and visit one of your local restaurants. We are all helping each other and it’s also very therapeutic to sit and maybe chat with your waiter or waitress or your bartender or whoever is working at the restaurant because they were affected too.

BS: They were affected.

JS: And they’re back to work.

BS: That’s right. I mean, if you ask them pretty quickly, you’re going to learn that they probably lost a home and that they are truly suffering, and that their family. We’ve seen people that sent their family to the mainland right away and then realized big mistakes and got them back because you’ve got to be here, and I think right now there are no finer people than the people in Lahaina. And they’re tough and it’s going to all work. But I’ll tell you, they are suffering more than you can ever imagine. And most of them are laughing and talking and wondering if you’re okay and acknowledging that maybe we’ve all suffered a little, even if we didn’t lose anything. You know, we lost something. We lost the simplicity of the world that we’ve all been living in for me, almost 50 years, 40-some years.  Elizabeth has been here throughout 60 years. No kidding.

EQ: Told you I was old.

BS: No, she isn’t. She is way younger than I am. But I had to throw that away.

EQ: 38 years. So more than half my life.

BS: Yeah. There you go.

EQ: And the best thing I ever did was bring my children here. My sons, this has really gotten so much more love and hugs out of everybody. And to me personally, my sons came in and kicked butt and helped everybody. I’m very, very proud of my family.

BS: Your boys are great boys. I mean, they would help anybody if we needed anything. They always check with us. I think Julie’s got a little comment.

JS: I was just going to say really quick, just tying in my connection to the Lahainaluna High School, I saw one of our friends had a t-shirt on the other day. Lahainaluna t-shirt, and it said, it takes all you got to be a Luna.

BS: Yes.

JS: Yes. I loved it. Because right now it’s going to take all we got to be a Luna. The other thing that I know about my class of 1982 from Lahainaluna High School is we are Lunas for Life.

BS: That’s right. And Julie came back here, and she is a Luna for life.

JS:  Right.

BS: I hope this show today made sense. And maybe we didn’t talk about what we were I don’t even know what we decided we were going to talk about, but we wanted to at least talk about what’s happening. We’re down to the one-minute warning. Danny Couch is going to come back on and we’re going to kind of sing along with him. I love Hawaii.