3 stories of heroes from the Hawaiian fires

By Chuck Norris

Monday, Aug. 21, marks the 64th anniversary (in 1959) of Hawaii’s induction as the crowning star of America’s 50 states.

However, now definitely isn’t the time to celebrate, with so much devastation and loss from the apocalyptic wildfires that ravaged Maui and the Big Island.

I wrote last week and repeat here: My wife, Gena, and I have a special fondness for the Hawaiian people, just like many of you. It absolutely breaks our hearts to see the dreadful loss of life (over 110 precious human lives) and property.

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The Maui disaster is the deadliest U.S. fire since 1918 (see data visualization).

1440 Daily Digest summarized the details of the ongoing search: “Nearly30% of the affected area has been covered by roughly 185 crew personnel and 20 cadaver dogs. Only five of the bodies recovered so far have been identified; roughly 1,300 people are still missing.”

We continue to pray for the victims, their families, first responders and survivors.

Webster’s dictionary defines a hero as one who demonstrates great courage.

In past Hawaiian history, King Kamehameha I, Saint Damien, Saint Marianne and Duke Kahanamoku were heroic figures.

Hawaiian heroes must also include all the first responders and firefighters who fought the recent infernos. They and God only know the valiant efforts and sacrifices they made trying to save lives and property.

As time progresses, I know more and more heroes are going to emerge as more survivors come forward and share their stories.

This past week, I read about just a few of the Hawaiian citizens who showed great courage during the ferocious fires. They remind us of the power of love and how humans can withstand great adversity. Their heroic examples serve as signs of strength, endurance and hope, even in the midst of the carnage.

Speak of great souls saving great souls, a 98-year-old woman who served in World War II was rescued by her neighbor from her burning home as the horrifying wildfires decimated Lahaina.

Lucille “Cille” MacDonald, whom people call a 98-year-old “Rosie the Riveter,” was in her home when hundreds of structures in the historic town were engulfed in flames.

Here’s Cille who, like millions of other women during WWII, worked in shipyards. First, she began working in a factory that made military belts. At age 18, she moved to Georgia to work as a journeyman welder building military ships. (Image: Facebook)

The Daily Express reported, “According to MacDonald’s close friend Dodo Dunaj: ‘Her neighbor Ben Watts saved her life, barely getting her in his truck when he saw a giant wave of flames.’

“‘She left with the clothes on her back, her purse, and her gardening shoes, and that was it. Before you know it, her house was gone, his house was gone, everything was just a disaster.'”

Cille and her familyevacuated to the Maui Prep School in Napili-Honokowai, West Maui – eight miles from Lahaina.

Lucille and her neighbor Ben Watts, who saved her life (Image: Facebook)

Another heroic example emerged when a California family of seven that was on vacation in Lahaina became lost as the wildfire with hurricane-type winds decimated the town.

A lifelong Lahaina resident, Jubee Bedoya, was running toward the sea to escape the flames when he saw the family from Fresno desperately seeking a way out.

Bedoya later explained, “We were trapped. There was nothing we could do. That fire and wind just came so fast. There was nothing anybody could do.”

The Daily Mail reported that Bedoya led them to the sea and encouraged them while they floated together for two hours.

Bedoya shared, “The mom didn’t want to come in. So, the husband grabbed her.”

Bedoya further explained, “The dad gave me the 2-year-old, and from that time that he gave him to me I had that son in my arms, clinging to my neck for about two hours. Two to three hours in the water. And it was crazy.”

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Astonishing film footage captured the eight people floating in the sea, surrounded by thick smoke and clinging to a piece of plywood that had blown into the water, as the flames destroyed the town.

All eight were rescued from the ocean by the Coast Guard. And the California family eventually made it back home to the Golden State.

While Bedoya is grateful to be alive and well without significant injury, he returned to his neighborhood two days later, where the fire had leveled his home and others to ashes.

Rather than taking any credit for his heroism, Bedoya humbly explained later that the “plywood saved our lives.”

My third and last heroic story unfortunately didn’t end well for the hero or the one he tried to save. But it sure shows how far sacrificial human love can and will go the distance during great adversity.

Franklin Trejos, a native of Costa Rica, had been friends for 35 years with Geoff Bogar. Trejos lived in Lahaina with Bogar and his wife, Shannon Weber-Bogar, and their dog, a golden retriever named Sam.

During the devastating blaze, Mr. Trejos and Mr. Bogar, who was a retired fire captain, initially stayed behind to help others in their neighborhood.

The UK Mirror reported what happened from there:

“As the flames moved closer and closer, they knew they had to flee, so each tried to escape to his own car. Mr. Bogar’s vehicle wouldn’t start, so he broke through a window to get out and crawled on the ground until a police patrol found him. He was taken to a hospital and managed to survive.”

Unfortunately, Mr. Trejos couldn’t escape the deadly flames.

“When Bogar returned to the neighborhood the next day, he found the bones of his friend in the back seat of his car, lying on top of the remains of the beloved three-year-old dog Sam, whom he had tried to protect.”

The Mirror concluded, “Mr. Trejos had lived for years with the Bogars, helping the wife, Shannon, with her seizures when her husband couldn’t. He filled their lives with love and laughter.”

In the end, Mr. Trejos loved the Bogars by sacrificially caring for their beloved canine family member, Sam, until they both breathed their last together.

Trejos’ love and sacrifice makes me consider again the words of Jesus: “Greater love has no one than this: that one lays down his life for his friends.”

Franklin Trejos with the beloved Bogar family dog, Sam.

Heroes like Lahaina residents Ben Watts, Jubee Bedoya and Franklin Trejos all remind me of the wise and great words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is brave five minutes longer.”

Please, encourage others by sharing this column with them. And please assist relief efforts in the Hawaiian aftermath by giving of your time, talents or treasures to such great charities as the Salvation Army and Samaritan’s Purse, who both have boots on the ground right now in Lahaina helping survivors. And if you didn’t read it, please read my column from last week, “Time to gather your own personal survival items: Do you have the right ones?”

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