June 2, 2008
By Aaron Bishop, Harmony, MN

Laupahoehoe is sacred ground for Hawaiians as well as for my family. It is a place of peace as well as a place of sorrow. Many people visit Laupahoehoe to gaze upon the site of a tragic, natural disaster that occurred over six decades ago. My family comes for a different, yet similar reason.

A tsunami claimed the lives of an entire class of 23 students and four teachers in the valley of Laupahoehoe on April 1, 1946. A gray stone on top of a slab of lava and concrete stands as the memorial with the names and ages of those who died from the disaster.
Having gone to Laupahoehoe a year before as tourists, my brother and my family had fallen in love with the scenery and pungent smells of sea spray. My family and I have come to Laupahoehoe every year around noon since Chris passed away. We visit this lava-spire filled ocean, his favorite place in the world, on his birthday in memory of him. The year is 2008 and March fourth marks my brother's 22nd birthday.

At the coastal area of Laupahoehoe, water is funneled into the bay, gaining more power as it reaches land because it has less area. This creates huge waves which are stopped abruptly by towers of lava rock as they intrude the ocean. With only one place to go, the waves smash into the Laupahoehoe rocks. As the waves crash into these spires, water and foam are thrown upward showering everything within a thirty foot radius, pattering the water below with a loud hiss as though steaming. The ocean in this cove is very treacherous and always active.

Fish find refuge in small tide pools closer to the main body of land in the calmer areas of the water. Along with bottom feeders and darter fish, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and sea anemone live in these pools. Halfway through the first set of rock spires, there is a river-like body of water. Imagine looking down at a horseshoe with the metal as the water and the empty space, the spires of lava rock. Where the two points are on the U, the ocean begins with no rocks jutting out of the surface and continues on as far as the eye can see. The waves follow the two bends in the U and meet in the middle in a constant war; battling over which way the water goes.

Our family perch is beyond the tide pools, in a somewhat sheltered area within the first set of spires, not crossing the thrashing water where the second set of rocks begin. This basically means we don’t get soaked by water, because the second set of spires break the water just before it reaches us.

It is here, where we retrieve our ring of flowers, called a lei. We toss the flowers in the ocean, the petals tumbling about in the strong current. Foam, hissing, and splashing about consumes the lei, usually after a few minutes. My mom or I take pictures of them as the ocean swallows them. Nobody says anything at this time as we sit on the lava spires; there isn’t any need to speak. If words do happen to be exchanged, they are very audible and alien compared to the silence.

Never is it quiet at Laupahoehoe because of the crashing waves and gurgling of the water as the ocean sucks it back in creates plenty of noise. However, it is truly a place of silence. All of the memories being crowded in at this one spot. Rarely do I hear people speaking, and just as rarely do I speak myself.

The sea salt carried by the constant wind is the only thing to smell. Sitting on the spires, the ocean is the only thing to see. The waves and the sounds of birds are the only things to hear. The lava and the sun are the only things to feel, except for love and sorrow, always present at Laupahoehoe.

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