School Psychology Students Help Maui Rebuild, Call on L&C Community for Support
Makena Robinson and Keiko Aotaki both candidly share their first-hand experiences with the deadliest US wildfire in more than a century, along with resources for how their Lewis & Clark community can help at this exceedingly critical time.
Makena Robinson, School Psychology ’23, returned home to Hawaii after graduating from Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling, serving in her new role as school psychologist for Maui public schools for just two weeks before devastating fires tore through the island. Keiko Aotaki, School Psychology ’25, was at home for the summer, told by her boss to not come in to work that day as the power was out from the 80 mph winds that battered the island.
Robinson and Aotaki both candidly share their first-hand experiences with the deadliest US wildfire in more than a century, along with resources for how their Lewis & Clark community can help at this exceedingly critical time.
“Hurricane Dora traveled south of Maui County and created unforgiving fires that raged throughout our island,” recounts Robinson. “Seven fires were reported across the island. The Maui Fire Department worked tirelessly for days to control two major fires on opposite sides of our island. In Lahaina, flames moved through houses like it moved through grass. With no warning. With no phone service. With 80 mph winds. Even the water supply stopped. Roads were blocked by downed power lines.”
People were swept away. Families were sleeping in their homes. Children were home alone enjoying their last day of summer. We don’t know how many friends and families we have lost.
Aotaki, too, remembers the day vividly.
“The winds were blowing tirelessly from the early morning hours to late at night. Half an hour later, I lost cell phone service and was unable to reach out to my family, friends, coworkers, or bosses. My mom was at work that day, and prior to losing cell service, she had sent videos and pictures of the debris, telephone poles lying in the middle of the roads, and extreme gusts of winds blowing up to 80 mph. Little did we know that we would spend almost 5 days without electricity; it felt like living in an apocalypse, living off the grid with no communication from the world.”
The following day, Aotaki learned that Lahaina was gone.
Almost every structure, every home, is leveled. It doesn’t even look like a wildfire took place. It looks like a movie scene showing the aftermath of a nuclear bombing.
The fires started August 8, 2023. Lahaina Fire was reported 100% contained on September 3, 2023, twenty-six days later.
Robinson and Aotaki ask members of their LC community to research what has happened in order to understand the impact it has had, and will continue to have, and to learn how they can help and support the island. But most importantly, they ask for support for their fellow students, who, like themselves, are mourning and grieving all of this pain.
If you can help or want to learn more, Robinson has provided the following links to resources and information.