“The Only Thing Worse Than Greiving Is Not Being Seen” – Message from Maui | Joe Hoft

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“The Only Thing Worse Than Greiving Is Not Being Seen” – Message from Maui

The following was shared with me about the human crisis in Maui.

A message from my friend on Facebook:

I am safe, my family is safe, my house is safe, my cars are safe.

Thousands on Maui are wishing they could write the same first sentence as me and have it be true.

This is tragic beyond belief. In 2010 Lahaina was my first home on Maui. That house is gone and the owner, my first ever landlord and friend, is missing. I have dozens of people I know that have lost everything. Some have been found, many have not. As many as 1400 are currently missing.

I keep seeing the same pictures and posts about the Lahaina fire. Talking about the banyan tree and shops. Same donation pages, same info on loop, same spin on the story making it about something else, directing the conversation to political, historical, cultural, or personal talking points. However, the difficult truth about the human tragedy is going seemingly unacknowledged by the larger world.

The deaths are being so grossly unreported. From boots on the ground, the number dead is in the hundreds if not breaking a thousand or more. The news reporting 6 “verified” dead was always something resembling a lie. Then 36, 53, to 80, up and up it trickles in closer but still painfully far from reality. The officials are building the number up slowly as identities are verified but let me cut to the chase:

There were senior centers not evacuated in time, kids trapped at home as there was no school and parents may have been working, and tourists oblivious to what was happening until it was too late. Evacuation order by text only at 3pm with power and cell phones not working. Houses destroyed before 5pm. Once roads got blocked by down power lines and debris a lot of people got stuck: people trapped in cars, houses, buildings, streets, or the ocean. People fled to the ocean, which in certain parts was on fire itself, and those that found something floating or could tread water for 4-8 hours in hurricane winds full of smoke made it to tell their stories. Those who couldn’t tread water for hours drown. There were bodies floating in the ocean taken “away” by boat. In the streets, charred bodies were taken “away” by dump trucks. It’s hard to identify who is who when it’s only bones left. This is the cold reality of the last few days.

I think the desire to want to do something is big. However, please do not donate to any organization that you don’t know where the money is going. There are already fundraisers that are scams.

An often overlooked reality is that when people try to help they can actually make things worse. My hope is that money goes to the people directly affected. In reality, a painful amount of it will not.

There are an incredible amount of physical donations but not an equally established way to organize and disperse the goods. Well meaning people leave stores empty while goods needing organization are overwhelming available volunteers at some places and resources are scarce at others further West. Leaving dispersed survivors in Kahului without a stocked store to purchase goods. This is now an island wide shortage of many basic necessities. Mailing lacking items to Maui would be useful. Some companies already are shipping in and out of Maui for free. Perhaps they all should.

Please donate financially to either established Maui based organizations that have been helping immediately or directly to impacted individuals. My friend Cadence has links to direct families affected by the Lahaina fire on her Instagram. Link in my last post. Venmo as a gift so they get every penny. Also consider donating to business that lost everything yet are still out there helping the community.

The fires happened on Tuesday. As I write, today is Saturday. Until today there was no one else but the community showing up. Over on Oahu lays one of the world’s largest military fleets; none of their boats have shown up. Four days later and one military plane incoming and FEMA finally arrived. The community is getting tired. We need big time help. No level of government is reacting as quickly as this warrants. In fact, they have prevented people from bringing donations because it needs to be distributed through them to those registered at shelters. They have not been here as first responders.

I’ve always been afraid of anyone who says, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” and this is a very sober reminder that there are good reasons.

The highway into Lahaina has been open and closed for days. In the brief windows the roads are open people want to drive out to Lahaina to see what happened, as though this happened for their entertainment, or still on vacation oblivious to the immense human tragedy that has just taken place, and end up clogging up the road for those whom that ride means the world right now. This is beyond frustrating.

This is one of many results of under-reporting and downplaying the extent of this tragedy.

Those affected by this are still in shock. They likely had to see things that will be with them for the rest of their lives. If you are someone who went through this please talk about it. You are around the people who understand. It won’t always be that way.

Right now people need housing. Thousands of people all at once. On an island that was and is experiencing a housing crisis. $3900 is the advertised monthly rate for what was rented less than 5 years ago for $1700. Price gouging is only kept up with by the cost of living, which Maui is on the upper end of the whole nation.

The neighborhoods that burned weren’t wealthy, they were local neighborhoods. Filled with hard working Maui residents. Life here is economically difficult. Everything is so expensive. Housing was already scarce. This fire destruction was 86% residential. Legacy households have been lost. Renters have lost everything. We need emergency housing set up yesterday.

There are many without a workplace, without a home, without a car, without a familiar place to rest, and without the presence of a loved one.

Imagine the heart break involved in the task of having to explain to your child why they can’t just go home.

Imagine having lost a child.

Leaving is not an option for those whose roots are deeper than the Banyan tree.

This is a moment of unspeakable grief for our island. The scale of which will be apparent only with time and truth telling.

Tell the truth. Tell the truth. Tell the truth.

All of it. Every painful detail. Only then can we grieve properly.

To say my heart breaks holds nothing close to how this feels. The local population feels the same unifying shock and grief. Know that whatever you are feeling, a thousand others are as well. You are not alone. We are truly in this together.

I sure would like the outside world to catch up on that truth and join the effort.

The only thing worse than grieving is not being seen.

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