“May this offering stretch across the skies
And these Halleluiahs be multiplied…”
No one else at the aquarium seemed to be distressed, just confused, although some of the staff skittered back and forth between the food stands and the gift shop.
I overheard another aquarium guest ask a staff member, "Where's the fire? Should we be leaving?"
He shrugged and said, "No, the fire is across the road and so far we haven't been asked to close the aquarium. You're okay."
"Where's the smoke coming from?" the girls asked us.
"We don't know, maybe behind us on the mountain," we answered.
Maybe we should leave, I thought.
"I'm hungry," Bryce whined.
"Let's find something to eat," the Mama said.
We went one of the food stands to see what was for sale. The girl behind the counter looked bored, head in her hands and elbows on the counter, even with the smoke that billowed above us and around us.
I could tell the Mama was unsettled. She shook her head after quickly scanning the food for sale and said, "Let's wait to eat." And then to the girl, "Thanks anyway."
"Sure," the girl said with a weak smile.
"I'm hungry," Bryce whined again.
"Me too," echoed Beatrice.
That's when we witnessed some of the families streaming out the exit, as if the wind carried them out to the parking lot. No one at the Maui Ocean Center directed anyone to do anything while the smoke continued to fill the air.
"We should go now. Yes, we have to go now," the Mama said. She'd already been thinking it, obviously, and it sounded as though she wished she would have said it sooner. Time to turn to the Kidpower channel: use your awareness to notice trouble — and don’t just move away from trouble — you move towards safety as quickly and calmly as possible.
"C'mon, girls," I said, ushering them out the exit to the parking lot.
We headed for our rental car, smoke everywhere. All those who were leaving, including us, moved swiftly to our cars with confused, anticipatory faces, as if maybe there were prizes awaiting us.
And that prize of course was safety, although again, we didn't really know how urgent things were or the extent of the fire. Just the fact that white and brown smoke came at us down the mountainside like a slow-moving tsunami.
In order to get to the stoplight and eventually back to our hotel in Kaanapali Beach, we had to exit the parking lot and turn left, with dozens of other cars behind us and in front of us on the street.
"Where are we going?" Beatrice asked.
"Back to the hotel," I answered.
"I'll get some snacks out in a minute. C'mon Daddy, let's go," the Mama said.
I drove to the parking lot exit, the majority of cars still behind us. As soon as the light turned green for the waiting cars to turn left to go back to Kaanapali and right to go back to Lahaina, the Mama ordered me to move.
"Go, go, go! Get out there!"
You move towards safety as quickly and calmly as possible.
I punched it and we edged into the lane in front of a patient family (who had waved us in) with the same escape in mind. In fact, everyone remained calm as they drove to where they needed to go. We made the light and within five minutes we saw the line of flames bleeding closer and closer to the highway. But we assumed we were on the road back to safety, and that was a good thing.
Sometime after we were on our way back to the hotel, the fire department closed down Honoapiilani Highway and then the Hawaii Red Cross, along with Maui Civil Defense, opened up two shelters at the Maui War Memorial and the Lahaina Civic Center. In fact, two friends of ours who were also on Maui and staying near us (which we found out the next day) were trapped behind the fire line coming back from the road to Hana, and had to stay in one of the shelters until early the next morning. Over 600 people, mostly tourists, had to stay in the shelters overnight.
Back at the hotel we discovered that the power was out as was cell phone service across the west side of the island and would be for hours. Fortunately no injuries were reported and no homes were damaged, although between 5,000-6,000 acres were burned in the fire.
Watching the sunset on the last night of our vacation, my Halleluiahs were multiplied. Nothing like a little trouble in paradise to keep you grateful for family safety first, no matter where you are.