Moke: A Community of Aloha

This past week as an entire community has rallied together to help a family find the hiker who went missing February 27th. Hawaii Fire Department had called off the search after 3 days, but late into the 4th day, 5 nurses heard him clearly calling for help, and the search resumed with a frenzy. Even the Navy came out and help for a day, weaving between cloud enshrouded ridges with infa-red cameras.

Since then, I have been awed to witness the outpouring of love and talents that have pulled together from near and far to support this family and find Moke Pua. When the clues pointed to areas that were inaccessible, my friends from 808canyons stepped in to aid in the search. If you know me, I enjoy rappelling down canyons and waterfalls with my friends for a hobby, and something we sometimes get a bad rap for (pun intended). In this case, however, the island was lucky to have my crazy daredevil friends who knew how to safely rappel down to the area in question. We got together this past Saturday to check out an area in question, but I ended up being assigned to join the helicopter to drop the ropes at the top of the trail, scout out the leads from the air and document them with my camera, and use this intel to determine the best route for them to descend. Meanwhile Kitt, Chris, and others headed up the trail at a brisk pace carrying heavy packs of gear. These are just a few of the amazing moments that I watched unfold throughout the day.

At the airport, I was introduced to Kris, the helicopter pilot. He owns the helicopter we used, and donated over 20 hours of his time and fuel to fly in and out of the canyons, incessantly searching and assisting every way he can. He's got a huge heart, and you could tell that this weighs heavy on his mind. He's also an extremely skilled pilot, as he  wove in and out of the canyons and hovered over the narrow Moanalua saddle allowing me to drop four 600 ft ropes onto the narrow patch of ground.

This is David, a writer of one of the popular hiking blogs on the island. He's been spearheading the search, and has been investing countless hours and days on end to the cause. He's become a figure for the family to look to for assurance that their boy will come home, as he posts daily, even hourly updates on the search, and rallies for more volunteers and resources.

This is Brett. She joined me in the helicopter for a round of searching, and aided with a lot of coordination on the ground. Having solid coordination on the ground is extremely vital to the success of large crews like this. Multiple teams were hiking, rappelling, and searching from every angle, and her quick thinking and concise actions helped to organize information and connect teams quickly, safely, and efficiently.

From the air, the mountains extend on into endless valleys and ridges.

After hours of treacherous searching from the air, we landed at a makeshift base camp the school in Haiku valley has set up for us.

The principal of Kamakau Charter School lent her weekend to unlock the gates and clear a landing pad in the school parking lot, as well as organize a base camp. Volunteers and family members filled the parking lot, scanning the hillside with binoculars and bringing food and supplies for the volunteers. After 6 hours of scanning the mountains in freezing, windy conditions, shaking from fear as we swept in and out of valleys so closely I could see each blade grass, I was extremely grateful for warm food and hot coffee.

On the ground, teams regrouped to analyze each piece of data, communicate with the teams in the mountains, and determine the next steps.

Base camps at both the school in Haiku, as well as Moanalua Valley Park have been providing a place for support for crews on both sides, and the family members all stand by, anxiously awaiting news.

In Haiku, we gathered in a circle and the principal led the group in a prayer in Hawaiian to the mountains to bring Moke back to his family. Goosebumps covered my arms as they all started singing in Hawaiian, and even the children chimed in, their tiny voices blending together with the strong voices of the elders. As the sang, they were choking up, sobbing through the words, but insistently chanting on. Tears were streaming down my face by the end. One of the strong Hawaiian ladies put her hand on my shoulder and looked straight into my eyes. "We're not giving up," she said, her eyes glinting with determination, "you know that, right? We're bringing him home!"

After days of endless waiting on the ground, Moke's father was finally able to go up in the air and be in the mountains near his son. Watching that flight take off was a truly powerful moment. Once again, the Hawaiian prayers began, and all eyes were turned to the mountains as the women called to them, begging them, pleading with them to return their boy.

The chanting grew, their tatooed hands shaking, praying, as the helicopter roared louder and louder, sending Moke's father flying off over the mountains to find his boy.

I can only imagine the dynamics of what went on during that flight. Somewhere below them the mountains held Moke. I am told his father was whistling loudly over the roar of the helicopter, calling out to his son. When they returned to base camp, David and the father embraced, overwhelmed with emotion.

We returned to Moanalua Valley Park to regroup as the amazing teams of hikers and rappel crew slowly trickled in, returning from their long hard hours in the mountains.

This is Marc. An avid hiker himself, he's spent days in the mountains and on the ground coordinating the search efforts.

It's amazing and inspiring to see how a community has pulled together. Climb Aloha donated ropes to ensure safety of the rescue groups. Hawaii Camera donated telephoto lenses to help zoom in on areas of interest and document the mountain sections in question. Tom and Bruce, two photographers from the BI, flew over to join the crew, and Cameron also joined the photo crew for a day.  Crews from 808 Cavemen, Hawaii Trail and Mountain Club, and more,  joined the search. Many many others that I don't even know have all come together to donate, hike, and join the cause. Although we may not know Moke, we know the heart of a brother, a sister, a father, a mother. And the island has shown a dedication to bringing this boy home to his family.

The family is going in to their 13th day of not working and spending their personal resources to find their boy. If you want to contribute, please donate to the family fund here: http://www.gofundme.com/ns2oj4 Hawaii has proved once again, it's not just a place. It's a community, it's family, it's love, it's aloha.