Lahaina students returned to school for the first time since the Aug. 8 wildfire that destroyed the town.
The wildfire demolished homes and businesses and took the lives of 99 people. Many Lahaina residents have been displaced, living in hotels and condos.
Until early October, students were attending classes either online or at alternative campuses. Lahainaluna High School students returned to school on Monday, Oct. 16. The elementary school was also slated to return to school on Monday, but it was delayed until Wednesday, Oct. 18.
Matavaimoui Ma is a Lahaina parent and bishop of the Lahaina 2nd Ward. He said his children have been excited to return to school. Before returning to school in Lahaina, Ma’s children had to travel to Kihei, a town more than 20 miles away.
“It’s a great feeling to know that my children will return back to school here in Lahaina instead of going to Kihei. And also my daughter is so excited to be there with her classmate and her friends,” Ma said.
While the fire tore through the Lahaina town, Lahainaluna High School, Lahaina Intermediate School and Princess Nāhiʻenaʻena Elementary School were not burned.
Two other notable buildings also remained unscathed — the two Lahaina chapels of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The areas surrounding the church were filled with burned-out cars and buildings, yet the church buildings have no burn marks.
“I know the Lord is watching over us and protect us and also protect the two buildings here in Lahaina,” Ma said.
As the Lahaina community processes this tragedy, many have started wearing t-shirts and painting signs that say “Lahaina Strong.”
“To me, is not only Lahaina but is the whole Maui come together in unity and stand together at this difficult time. It really means a lot to us as a community to come together as one,” Ma said.
Residents in Lahaina are searching for hope and healing through their community.