By Lee Cataluna
Amy Entendencias letter read like it had been cried over.
"You always think tragedies happen to the neighbor next door, never to you. But, when it happens to someone so precious in your own family, the hurt of losing a loved one is devastating."
Entendencia, from Kaneohe, is the niece of Lillian Herring, the woman who died in a house fire caused by fireworks on New Years Eve. In the following days, we learned about Herrings charity work with her church, how she recycled cans and newspapers to raise money for needy children overseas. We heard horrific details of how she died, trapped in her home, a place she thought was safe from the fiery explosions of the night.
But Entendencias letter, written as a loving remembrance, fills in some of the details of who Lillian Herring was, how she lived, how she loved her family, and how shell be missed.
"She was always a cheerful woman. Always had a smile on her face, and, at times she was a rascal, especially when it came to Christmas gifts. She found ways of wrapping your gift that would make you laugh and laugh and laugh when you unwrapped it. ... Auntie always extended her hand in helping others that were less fortunate. And the comment of one sister at church mentioning about her cooking and bringing so much food and saying to auntie nough already! thats auntie! She always made sure there was more than enough."
Myrtle Street in Palolo Valley always had been a happy place for Herrings family. They felt welcomed and cared for there, a place they brought their children, the place where auntie lived. Now it is a neighborhood unsettled, a place where no one who knows who lighted the fatal fuse has found the courage to speak.
"Since the fire, visiting aunties burnt home puts a chilling quiver in me," Entendencia wrote. "The happy times of remembering Myrtle Street is now a cloud of darkness that will live with me for the rest of my life, all due to what police are suspecting illegal fireworks. New Years wont be much of a holiday for my family anymore, it will just be a remembrance of a gruesome fire that took the life of our auntie and her two dogs."
Herrings death has been hurtful and frustrating on so many fronts, for her family and for the community. Its frustrating that police have canvassed the neighborhood but havent found anyone willing to say what really happened. Its frustrating for the Palolo community, the neighbors who mourn Herrings death, to feel somehow accused of negligence, or worse. Its hurtful that those who know they could be responsible are hiding like cowards. And its terrifying to realize that there could have been so many other deaths by fire that night.
Herrings niece describes her search for meaning after the terrible sadness this way: "Something must be done for the safety of the people of Hawaii regarding fireworks, and Im all for it in making a difference in our homeland. We cant wait for three more homes to burn down and another person to die or lose a body part. Its getting too dangerous every year. As a niece of Lillian Herring, I, too, would like to see fireworks, if its not banned completely, maybe it can be confined to a designated area away from residential homes. Whatever the solution is, it needs to be a positive solution."
Whatever the solution is, it needs to happen soon, before we forget the fire of that night, before we forget the tears cried for Lillian Herring.
Lee Catalunas column appears on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.
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