Hawaiʻi governor and first lady give hopeful, heartfelt online address: ‘Lahaina will rise again’
Hawaiʻi Gov. Josh Green, with a visibly emotional First Lady Jamie Kanani Green by his side, talked about the loss of lives, the heartbreaking stories, the worldwide support and Mauiʻs resiliency as it recovers from the devastating Lahaina fire.
He also expressed his resolve that the state will not abandon the survivors; he will get to the bottom of the criticized emergency response; and he will do everything he can to help Lahaina rebuild.
During the 10-minute hopeful and heartfelt address that was shown on Friday night on his official Facebook page, Green said: “Lahaina will rise again. It will be a symbol of our resilience, our values and our sacred bonds of ʻohana.”
He said when Lahaina is rebuilt, it will be “a living memorial to the loved ones we have lost.”
As of Friday, the official death toll was at 114 with a little more than 60% of the burned area thoroughly searched with dogs. The number of “unaccounted for” people remains in the hundreds.
He said a rebuilt Lahaina also will be a symbol of “the Native Hawaiian cultural that founded it centuries ago” and the “values that will enable us to endure this tragedy and flourish again, like the great banyan tree that survived the fire and still stands among the ruins today.”
Hawaiʻi will set an example for the world, he said, about how to protect and preserve its culture, history and values while navigating the challenges of sustainable development, extreme weather and global climate change.
More than 2,000 housing units have been secured on Maui to shelter those whose homes have burned or been displaced by the fire. And, he said that the state will continue to work with the Red Cross to provide housing to all the survivors for as long as it is necessary.
Since the fires on Aug. 8, Green has spent a lot of time in West Maui, speaking with survivors and hearing their stories of tragedy, loss and hope.
He said he held the hand of a 30-year-old man from Lahaina while he was being bandaged for bad burns to his legs and face. He suffered those burns “while pulling strangers into his car to save them from the fire as his own clothes were burning.”
He spoke with an 80-year-old Japanese man who spent most of his time volunteering in West Maui and now can’t locate two of his best friends.
Another story was about a young Filipino woman who was 7 months pregnant and didn’t know how she would make it to her next medical appointment to ensure her baby was healthy.
“With tears in her eyes, she said she intends to name her baby Faith,” Green said.
The governor thanked all the support that Maui has received, including that of President Joe Biden, whom he invited to come to Maui on Monday, along with First Lady Jill Biden.
Many on Maui and elsewhere have criticized the emergency response to the Lahaina fire, including the decision not to use sirens to warn people. It has led to the resignation on Thursday of Herman Andaya, administrator of the Maui Emergency Management Agency.
The governor said he will “get to the bottom” of what happened and has ordered a comprehensive assessment of every detail of the Maui emergency response.
He said he will find out exactly how the fire started, how emergency procedures and protocols need to be strengthened, and how to improve defenses to protect the people of the state in the future.
“We will never forget what we have lost in Lahaina and we will never abandon the survivors or our commitment to help them recover and heal,” Green said. “We will mourn those we have lost, honor their memories and support the survivors.
“And, we will nurture our hope for the future that will emerge again like shoots from the ashes.”