On Friday, 25 days after the Aug. 8 Lahaina fire caused unimaginable loss of life, vigils were held from sunrise to sunset on Maui and across the state to mourn all the people who died.
Participants mourned for the 50 people who have been publicly identified, most older residents of the historic seaside town. They mourned for the 65 people whose remains have been found but their names are not yet known. And they mourned for the death of those whose remains will never be found, with 385 people still “unaccounted for.”
“We all hurt,” said Aarona Francine, known as “Aunty Mopsy” from Protect Pāʻia.
“Whether affected or not, we all hurt for each other. So today, today is a time … to come together, the whole statewide, to remember everyone in pule [prayer].”
Aunty Mopsy was one of several spiritual or religious leaders to speak during a noon vigil at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College that was attended by about 250 people, included Maui County Mayor Richard Bissen. The ceremony was held on a lawn near the FEMA-STATE Disaster Assistance Center, where people were streaming in for help.
The day of remembrance called “Kipuni Aloha no Maui,” which means “Embrace Beloved Maui, featured vigils large and small, rooted in Native Hawaiian practices with words of comfort and hope from leaders of diverse faiths and backgrounds.
The program included oli and mele (chants and songs), including “E Hō Mai,” by the late kumu hula, chanter, teacher and Hawaiian dancer Edith Kanaka’ole:
Grant to me the knowledge from above; Of the artistic and skillful secrets in the chants; Grant me, grant me, grant me
An emotional Ria Razzauti from the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist organization said: “We extend our deepest condolences for the lives that [were] lost. We want to say also that for those that have passed, your death will not go in vain. We will never forget. And I just pray for the peace and love and the aloha — and the harmony of the ʻāina and the world.”
Dr. Kamanao Pono Crabbe helped create the day of remembrance with Maui Kumu Hula Hokulani Holt-Padilla, an admired Hawaiian cultural elder.
He explained: “On the evening of the fire, she and I were talking and realized the devastation that had occurred — and in the days that followed we knew there would be much effort from the community on the ground and there would be the necessary help from the state and federal government, and the county.
“What came to us was the importance of remembering those who perished in the fire.”
He said Lahaina is known for not only the rich, cultural history of the Hawaiian chiefs and the Hawaiian Kingdom, but also for cultural sites, including leina a ka ʻuhane in Kāʻanapali.
“Itʻs a leaping off peninsula where the souls of the perished ascend into the realm of our ancestors,” Crabbe said. “At sunset, when the sun touches the horizon of the ocean, thatʻs when the portal is open for the souls to enter, and they are guided by certain spirits to the afterworld of what we call po.”
A Native Hawaiian Sunset Ceremony was held Friday at the Kaʻanapali Golf Course as part of the day of remembrance.
The day-long vigil was in line with ʻAha Pule Pualu, the assembly of kumu hula and cultural practitioners for collective prayer and reflection over an anahulu, a 10-day period that started on Aug. 13 at noon in alignment with the moon.
Crabbe said he and Holt-Padilla wanted the day of remembrance to embrace everybody and invited leaders from denominations of different congregations.
“So weʻll hear from various churches and temples and they will offer up their own prayers and condolences to the people who have perished, and to the families and friends who continue to grieve and mourn,” he said. “So much tragedy.
Crabbe said he knew people who died in the fire: “We all have to unify, come together and comfort each other.”
The loss of life from the fire in Lahaina already is overwhelming, with the remains found of 115 people, making it the deadliest fire in the United States in more than a century. How much worse that horrific number will get is unknown.
The vigils also were for the healing and cleansing of the land.
“So we have good intentions as we move forward in rebuilding the town of Lahaina,” Crabbe said.