Horror, Survival, and Hope on August 8, 2023
by Christy Shaver
On Tuesday morning, August 8, the electric power went out in Lahaina. The wind was fierce, breaking branches from the trees behind my house. My mother left her nearby apartment and came over to my home. We huddled together watching the storm, as we have always done during rough times.
The wind's fury peaked after lunch, and out of concern, I went outside to see how my neighbors were faring. However, the gusts were still so strong that I nearly lost my footing. Soon after the scent of smoke wafted in. I joked, “Who's having a barbecue in this weather?” But then the realization hit me – another wildfire must have ignited. We had heard about one earlier which had been brought under control, but this must be new.
Lahaina has witnessed its fair share of fires in recent years, so the scent of burning wood was not entirely unfamiliar. Surprisingly, there were no warning sirens or emergency notifications. Conversations with neighbors led us all to decide to remain indoors. Within minutes, though, the sky turned darker. Going outside I was horrified to see that the smoke in the wind was now full of burning embers. Panic surged when I noticed the trees near my home catching fire. Without a second thought, I ran back inside, grabbed my mom, my dog, and our purses, and dashed to my car. I picked up a neighbor as we pulled out. Flames were already engulfing the building next door.
As we merged onto Front Street, a narrow two-lane road, traffic was at a standstill, with the dense smoke restricting visibility. Chaos reigned as people scrambled for safety. Amid the tumult, I noticed water tankers approaching the property where my mom's apartment was. A police car was moving up the left shoulder, actually driving over people’s front lawns. Instinctively I swerved over and followed right behind him, and many other cars copied us. We made significant headway. Predicting further congestion ahead, I steered into a large grocery store parking lot.
For a tense 15 minutes, we watched the smoke rise ominously. As we resumed our journey towards the highway, fallen power lines impeded our path. Winding our way northward, we eventually reached an area devoid of downed electric lines and stopped. We actually considered heading back to Lahaina, not truly grasping the gravity of the situation.
Fortunately, our friend who we had picked up earlier, is an employee at the Marriott Hotel. He was able to secure cots for us in the Hospitality Room and some granola bars. The shock of what a close call we had had sank into us.
Through sporadic cell service, the crushing truth gradually started emerging the next day. Many people did not survive, and hundreds more are still missing. More than 2,000 structures were burned, including five homes belonging to our family. Yet, we drew solace from the fact that we were all unharmed.
Lahaina holds a special place in my heart, with our family roots extending over five decades. The devastation is heart-wrenching. When we lost our homes without a moment’s preparation, we literally lost every possession we owned: our clothes, computers, furniture, books, family pictures, and family heirlooms including my grandmother’s jewelry. My mother also lost her car.
The magnitude of the loss is almost immeasurable. However, following the horrendous fire, I sought refuge in the teachings of my spiritual teacher, Shrii Shrii Anandamurti. Holding onto the understanding that a Cosmic Consciousness orchestrates the universe, I started to believe that even such profound tragedies carry an underlying meaning. Through consistent meditation and dedication to my spiritual routine, I've managed to rekindle a connection with my inner essence and the boundless cosmic rhythm. Bolstered by a supportive and loving global community, I stand resilient, deeply rooted in spirituality, and rejuvenated with a newfound hope and purpose.