Months after Maui: Making Moments Matter

Jennifer Simpson
6 min readDec 30, 2023
Looking back toward Lahaina Harbor from Wahikuli Park. August 17, 2023

When I got back from Maui this summer, I wrote about my family’s up-close experience of escaping the Lahaina fire. Since then, many new details have emerged about the systems failures that turned a windy day and a small grass fire into a blazing inferno that killed at least 97 people (though many remain missing and unaccounted for) and destroyed the entire historic downtown area.

The New York Times even produced a dramatic interactive report that shows the many points of failure and missed opportunities that fueled this catastrophe. My 15-year-old daughter forwarded it to me a few weeks ago and when I asked her what she took from the article she said, “that we were the lucky ones.” As I read through it, the weight of those words sank in. There was a picture of Lahainaluna road only an hour after we’d been stuck in traffic on it, now fully engulfed in smoke. Here was a graphic of the evacuation alert boundary that excluded so many neighborhoods that were ultimately engulfed. One graphic showed the text messages loved ones sent as the flames approached before all of the lines went dead.

We were indeed lucky, but what has stuck me most in the weeks and months since our narrow escape, were the places where the little moments that made all of the difference — in both directions. Our trip to Maui was supposed to be a 2-week respite from the hard work of writing and publishing a book that had consumed so much of the first part of 2023 before getting ready to launch it into the world. In fact the pre-publication proof of the KOAN method: Breakthrough Leadership for a Divided World found me on our very last day on the island (and the first one where roads had re-opened and mail service had resumed).

The book proof found me on my last day on Maui

After waking up on the morning of August 17 to find that the highway into Lahaina had been reopened, we made a plan to safely return to visit my partner Alex’s brother, whose dive shop had been completely destroyed in the fire. Soon afterwards, we got word that the proof of the book, which I’d had arranged to have shipped before we left and assumed would never reach me, was out for delivery. As I paged through it on our drive back to Kihei at the end…

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Jennifer Simpson

An artist, poet, leader, lover, daughter, sister, and mother living in Boulder, Colorado. Owner and CEO at Integrated Work. Author of the KOAN method.