Lava flow in Hawaii: Students affected by destruction, commentary

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Magma bursting from the surface. Roads terrifying to drive on. The risk of waking up to find your house damaged For a mainlander, this sounds like a trailer to a disaster film, but to Pacific students from Hawaii, it’s an actual life event.

Pacific students from Hawaii now must deal with their hometowns being jeopardized as the lava flow from the Kilauea volcano becomes more severe as the weeks go by.

While the volcano has been active on the Big Island and continuously erupting for over 30 years now, it has just recently escaped from its contained state. Until then, the lava flow was seen as less of potential danger and more as a tourist site.

“I’m from the Big Island, in a town called Hilo, which is half an hour of where the lava is affecting,” junior Erin Yoshida said. “Ever since I was a kid, we used to go visit the lava flow, and that was when it wasn’t dangerous at all, so we could just like watch it, and it was a cool thing. That’s the place we would take tourists to see the lava, and it was really pretty, and now it’s just scary.”

While the lava was in its contained state, the danger the lava had potential for was always in the back of the locals’ minds. Even then, residents of Hawaii were still living with health risks.

“The actual like crater (at Kilauea’s summit) opened up a few years ago, and it’s been smoggy, even on my side from the wind,” Freshman and Western Hawai’i native Logan Whitney said. “I’m sure people (on the east side) are having breathing issues. I’m not, luckily, but people with asthma and stuff I’m sure.”

Luckily, the flow of the lava has been slowing down, and people are estimating that the course is going toward the ocean. However, it still holds a frightening air for Hawaii residents.

For the students residing on the Pacific campus for eight months out of the year, it isn’t affecting them physically the same way it affects their family members living near there. Senior Kailea Saplan, who was born and raised on the Big Island until age 15, still has connections with Hawaii that are unsettling.

“I have distant family members there, but my grandmother is also there,” Saplan said. She’s in a home, and she’s had a stroke, so she’s not able to move really anywhere. I personally haven’t been able to get back there, but I have family members that are consistently visiting her. It’s not affecting where she is at this time but I’m sure that the minute that changes, we’re going to have to start figuring something out to get her over here with us.”

Unfortunately, while the students are attending school on the mainland, they do risk not getting updates on the state of the lava flow.

“Well, I feel kind of like out of the loop,” Whitney said. “I don’t really know what’s going on outside of social media.”

Saplan is in the same situation.

“I do have friends there at least, and I’m always updated on Facebook, and they keep letting us know that they’re okay,” Saplan said. “I’m not sure that I would know, if my friends weren’t talking about it. Because now that I’ve been living here (in Oregon) and trying to make a home and a life for myself on the mainland, I rarely check Hawaii news, and I don’t have direct-direct ties. (My grandmother’s) not calling me up every day to tell me what’s going on, so I can understand how that happens.”

Students are also thinking about how their friends are getting affected.

Well, like in Hawaii, everyone thinks of everyone, even strangers, as like family,” Whitney said. “So I’m pretty concerned for them.”

Along with the social media updates, there is constant photography of how the lava flow is affecting roads and land. Some students are finding this either informative, or insensitive.

“It’s a little disturbing, because some people are making jokes about it,” Yoshida said. “People have been taking selfies, and trying to like stick things inside the lava, and I honestly feel like this is disrespectful. Like, this is like a serious thing,

I honestly feel like this is disrespectful. Actual lives are in danger, and people are making a joke out of it, I can’t even imagine.”

As the volcanic lava flow continues, students are still trying to stay positive.

“It’s hard for me to say because I’m not there,” Saplan said. “I see the lava as, of course as destructive and scary, but it’s also life. It’s creating new land, and we all knew, that that’s what (volcanoes) do when we elected to live there. I mean, it’s not fair to say, because a lot of people don’t necessary elect to live there, but they live there now, and it’s difficult to leave after they’ve made such a tight community and home there, but I still think that it is amazing that some people get to see it and experience it.”


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