The Hawaii Wildfires Recovery Field Office commander, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers responders from the recovery field office gathered with teachers and staff from the King Kamehameha III Elementary School in Lahaina, Jan. 8, for a pule or prayer, in honor of the school.
Col. Jesse Curry, RFO Commander, Hawaii Wildfires Recovery Mission attended with Hawaii Wildfires Recovery Mission deployers. USACE’s presence was requested in the event the staff and teachers had questions related to the recovery mission on Maui.
“Our hearts are broken for you, and we are working as quickly as we can to get the temporary school ready,” said Curry. “We know that it’s important for you to get to a place where you can have structure and we are doing everything we can.”
King Kamehameha III Elementary School opened in 1913 and served several generations of students in Lahaina before the August 8, 2023, wildfires on Maui destroyed thousands of homes and businesses.
Kara Vick, the mission manager for the Maui temporary school, was onsite to answer specific questions related to the project and said that USACE responders understand the importance of the work on Maui.
“Many of us that have volunteered to help with the Maui Wildfire disaster have experienced tragedies ourselves either through hurricane, flooding, tornados or wildfires,” said Vick. “Those of us that have not experienced these natural disasters first-hand have deployed before on these types of missions and can attest to the shared energy, emotions, and grief of the victims.”
For most of the teachers and staff, the occasion marked the first time they had been to the school site since the fire.
Karen Pascual, a fourth teacher grade from the school, brought a bag of rose petals and showered the site where her classroom once stood with them.
“I spent 31 years of my life here. To mahalo this place, I wanted something beautiful,” said Pascual, who added that the best part of teaching the fourth grade was teaching Hawaiian Studies where students learn about the history of Hawaii and Lahaina.
“That’s their culture. It really does start here. The kids could look out the classroom window and see the Lahaina ‘L’ on the mountain.”