“We’re in this together.”
Phrases like this and others embodied an overall message of aloha.
Sayings such as “We’re here for you,” and “There’s people in this community who care about you,” were heard often following the April 2018 floods.
A renewed spirit of aloha has come to life in Haena and Wainiha, on the North Shore. Neighbors reached out to one another to support each other, from collecting debris and trash cleanup to sharing food and gasoline. All of these acts demonstrated the immense kindness our community is capable of.
Those acts of kindness and words of comfort demonstrated how, through it all, in this greatly troubling time where so many people had lost precious belongings and their homes, it was also an opportunity for growth and healing.
The community has pulled through by being there for each other. And now, after working on the road for over a year now, county and state officials have given the green light to reopen Kuhio Highway to the public.
Looking back, I remember from my experience, the intensity of the thunderstorms and the torment of wondering how long it would go on for. It truly felt as if it would never stop raining, but that feeling eventually gave way to relief. When the sun came out the next day it seemed brilliantly bright in contrast to the hours of dark, stormy weather the night before.
I was so relieved and enjoyed taking a break from walking around in the muddy floors of my home. It was a sign that, despite the night before, things were going to get better.
It was also good news to know that, thanks to Nanea Marston at the Tahiti Nui, my husband had seafood chowder, and sheltered in Hanalei, so that he may rest, regroup and join myself and the kids.
I had camped out in the house with my 9-month-old and 8-year-old back “on the other side” in Wainiha, and basically cleaned up a lot of flood water in Wainiha as we waited for him to return. We communicated in between short-lived time periods when the landline phone was working. He ended up hiking in, across the highway and over the giant landslide piles of dirt, and Lumahai Beach with supplies. He made it back just before nightfall the day after the storm.
Whenever I pass the Wainiha General Store, I think on how back when Wainiha was first land-locked, with several huge piles of mud and debris from the rainforest strewn all about the stretch of highway from Waikoko to Wainiha. Up the road from the store just across the bridge there was an actual wall of dirt and debris. It was like the Great Wall of China to me, separating us all from the rest of the world for the next couple of weeks. It’s like passing Wainiha Store had not just become the store at the end of the road, but the store at the end of the world.
Hanalei Colony Resort and the center it is located in became more than just a place nestled by the ocean alongside a coffee shop, spa and restaurant. Laura Richards, general manager of Hanalei Colony Resort, Will Stewart, owner of Napali Art Gallery and Coffee House, and Gregg Fraser, owner of Opakapaka Grill and Bar, all opened their doors to the public in one way or another.
The resort became a headquarters for housing first responders, Samaritan’s Purse, National Guard, and displaced residents to storing fire trucks, police cars, ambulances, and of course large amounts of food and water. Hanalei Colony Resort even hosted the satellite school.
When the coffee shop opened a few weeks after the road closure around the time when the convoy started, people would go there to get a caffeine boost and talk story, learn what’s going on through the “coconut wireless.”
For at least a year Haena Beach Park was home for those who had been displaced during the flood, made out of tents and pallets built by Samaritan’s purse. It was a place for people to live until they were able to get on their feet and get more permanent housing.
Camp Naue played an important role in aiding the community on its long journey to recovery. Hundred of mouths were fed free meals for weeks as coordinated by Jessica Lindman while she worked out of the kitchens at the camp. That effort successfully evolved into Mea‘ai on Wheels, organized by Hana Neering, which started operating out of Opakapaka at the beginning of this year.
Looking back on the road closure and “Convoy Era,” as I sometimes refer to this period in time which isolated Wainiha and Haena from the rest of Kauai and seemingly the world for over a year, it was a valuable time of healing for both the community and the environment.
The town of “raging waters” and the flood waters had provided an opportunity to re-evaluate this beautiful place we live in — to even look past recovery and think about what we as a community can do to make things even better in the future.
I would say that our community here in Wainiha and Haena, as well as the island community, has done all that they can to put their best foot forward. There are many issues to consider, many things to improve on, to take Wainiha and Haena into the future.
For over a year now we have been reliving the past, embracing it, and modeling our lifestyle off a time when there were few cars and both people and animals alike could roam freely on the roads and beaches.
Wildlife has returned to the shorelines and beaches, and nature is healing along with the people.
Monique Rowan is a Wainiha resident who writes occasionally for The Garden Island.
Source: The Garden Island