While the world will always, rightfully, remember September 11 as the day on which terrorists struck at the heart of the United States, killing and injuring thousands; the people of Hawaii and especially the island of Kauai will always remember September 11 as the day on which Hurricane Iniki made landfall doing catastrophic damage to Kauai.
It was 20 years ago today that Iniki, a Category 4 hurricane with winds of 145 mph struck, causing over $1.8 billion in damage, many injuries and six deaths.
My wife and I first visited Kauai two years later and the devastation was still visible. Homes along the southern shore had literally disappeared in the storm. All of the large hotels in the Poipu area had suffered significant damage and several were still closed. I recall how when we drove to Waimea Canyon, we could see massive numbers of trees that had been cut down to just their trunks. The famous Coco Palms Hotel on the eastern shore, made famous in the Elvis Presley film Blue Hawaii was severely damaged and, in fact, remains closed and the property fenced in even to this day.
Our tour Guide on that day was a woman from Hanapepe named Alicia who worked, and still works, for Polynesian Adventure Tours. As she dropped us at the airport after our tour for our flight back to Honolulu, she begged us to come back to Kauai in the future promising us that the island would recover and thrive once again.
The island of Kauai has recovered from Iniki. Only a few of the physical scars are still visible. The people who lived through Iniki will surely always remember the storm and the long days of recovery following its passing.
So today, we remember that day 20 years ago when nature's wrath fell upon the small island of Kauai and we honor all of the men and women from Kauai and elsewhere who spent months and years rebuilding the island for the island's residents and so that we, who visit Hawaii, can appreciate the island's beauty and the hospitality of its people.
Our good friend Sue Kanoho, of the Kauai Visitors Bureau, posted a link on Facebook to the original video for Hurricane Iniki fundraising in 1992. It's called Kauai Aloha.