PC: Sea Level Photography

She screams and sobs, “I just want to go home. Why can’t I go home? Please Mommy take me home.” 

Another nightmare of the fire wakes my 5-year-old. It’s been 4 months since the Maui wildfire took 100 lives and according to ABC News turning 2,200 homes to ash and leaving 7,000 of us displaced. 

On August 8, 2023, our community was left blind and deaf with only one way in and one way out as the fire ripped through everything we knew, our home, Lāhainā. 

Power line poles blocked the road, thousands were gridlocked in the heart of Lāhainā while the world around us was blowing up, literally. Propane tanks, roofs caving in, gas stations, and cars going off like bombs, the noise is unforgettable. Watching as the smoke encapsulates everything in its wake. Embers lighting up the darkness. The heat was unbearable to the skin. People ditched their cars and ran for their lives as everything around us was turning to ash. 

Individually, as a community, as an island, our lives have been changed forever. 

I hold my daughter close, brushing her hair away from her face and kissing her tears, whispering in her ear over and over, “You are safe. I love you. You are safe. I love you.” I apply calming essential oils and begin singing her favorite songs while rocking her back to sleep. 

We wake up to a reality that was chosen out of survival, a reality that isn’t ours. I honor my keikis’ experience, their pain, and their loss while navigating my own. I bring them to the ocean and urge them to scream, be angry, feel sad, and let our tears fall with silent prayers to fill our soul with faith in the uncertainty, to keep our minds clear and hearts open. 

There is nowhere to go, being moved and evicted every two weeks while trying to mesh into a world that feels foreign and uncertain. Fighting for our voices to be heard. Standing in solitude as we protect our aina and the world moves on and life continues even though. 

Hearts are hurting, PTSD, anxiety, depression, depletion, and grief are the new normal but we rise because Lāhainā runs through our veins. We bleed red. The pride we carry in one another, our hometown will forever be the freedom and vision of tomorrow. 

We are Lāhainā, kukui ʻaʻā mau pio ʻole i ke Kauaʻula (ever-burning torch not darkened by the Kauaʻula winds.)

Raised in Lāhainā, Haley Celeste Miller is passionate about unschooling, generational healing, essential oils and being a mom.