The day after the Lahaina fire, well-known Maui musician Marty Dread peddled a bike into the burned area filled with smoke desperately searching for his daughter’s uncle, Lee Strom, and Strom’s girlfriend Denise Bega.
“I carried my bike and walked along the shoreline,” he said. “Authorities saw me walking and told me to leave. They chased me out. They yelled, ‘You can’t be here! You cannot be inside here!’ But I wouldn’t have forgiven myself if I didn’t try.”
But he couldn’t find them in the town where he often performed but now barely recognized.
Unsuccessful, the reggae, island musician headed to Canada for music shows that day, where he continued to support his community. Dread said he decided to honor the commitment so he could use the money he would make to help back on Maui.
“I figure I couldn’t get back into the area so I could actually go get some funds by accepting this gig and help more people,” he said.
After a couple of days of not knowing — and thinking Strom, the brother of his daughter’s mother — might be dead, Dread got the phone call he had been waiting for, with Strom on the other end.
“He apologized for not having phone reception for the first couple of days and he was just checking in to tell me that he was alive and that he had saved his girlfriend and the dog also,” Dread said.
But Strom also told him his sad news. He lost his house, car and all of his tools in the fire.
“He didn’t really quite know what he was going to do but then he landed at his girlfriend’s sister’s house later that day,” Dread said.
He reconnected with the couple on Wednesday at the Hang Loose Lounge where other survivors of the fires had congregated.
“I thought you were dead,” Dread said to Strom.
Strom, a Lahaina resident for 20 years, was in tears that night, reflecting on the overall disaster. He and Bega are doing their best to cope with the more than hundred lost lives and what could have been done to have prevented such tragedy.
They escaped that day with just their dog Ipo and the clothes they were wearing. When they started driving down Lahaina, Strom said they got close to the police station, where a utility pole in the road was blocking traffic.
“There was only one lane to get out of Lahaina to go north,” he said. “They could have taken a truck and pushed it out of the way and opened the lanes to get out of town.”
He also felt having access to communication would have helped, as well as an alert signal to get out of town.
“The fire was coming from mauka, we wouldn’t have ran towards it,” he said of Maui’s recent leadership statement on their decision to not signal the tsunami warning siren.
The couple lost everything.
And while the trauma was still fresh, Strom, Bega and Dread were at least happy to see each other.
Dread said he’s been doing his best to reconnect with anyone he can, while also grappling with the grief of the situation.
With no plans to perform music for Lahaina in the near future, Dread said he will one day play for the community close to his heart but that now is not the right time.
He recently released a new album titled “What You Mean to Me,” that features songs he created during the pandemic.
He said one song in particular, “This Old World,” hits hard at this moment. The song, that is an ode to a loved one coming together while the world end speaks volumes at the moment.
The lyrics: “If this old world, is closing down, let’s spend the night together, and watch the old world burn down.
“I can’t hardly listen to that song without tearing up,” he said.
He hopes music will help the Maui community heal moving forward.
“Because music is made of sound waves and sound waves penetrate your body and give you what we call vibes, there is music with good vibes and music with bad vibes,” he said. “There’s some angry music that just makes you want to go out and destroy something and maybe people out there are feeling the anger and looking to lay blame. Other forms of music are meant to penetrate your soul and give you ease. Our community could sure use the latter right now, so if I can be a vessel of letting those healing vibrations come through me and touch people and heal them, I’m in.”