KAPAA, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the sun rose the morning after Hurricane Iniki hit, the light revealed an island ravaged by the storm. That day also revealed the true character of Kauai's people.
The island of Kauai was a wasteland. 2,000 homes had been completely destroyed, with another 4,000 homes seriously damaged and an additional 5,000 power poles down. There was no power, and no running water.
John Greco, co-owner of Bubba's Burgers in Kapaa, said everyone was confused.
"We were all suffering from some sort of a priority disorder," said Greco. "We didn't know what to do first. There were so many things that needed to be done. Our yards were all a mess, a lot of our houses were a mess, so you just took it one day at a time. Fortunately for us, we had something to do every day."
When Greco says "us," he is referring to himself and his business partners, Andrew Hart and Debbie Bassler, and what they had to do every day was run a restaurant, Bubba's Burgers. Their small, 400 square foot eatery amazingly survived the storm.
"Once we got to Bubbas and it was okay, we decided to cook in the park, so we took our equipment out, put it in the back of the truck, hauled it to the park," said Andrew.
The trio fired up the grill, put on some burgers and a line formed immediately. Visitors and residents cued up together. Debbie said the people in line were thankful for a hot meal.
"They were so grateful when we started cooking. They would say 'how much do you want' and we're like 'nothing.' I think John and Andrew were saying 'you can bring us a beer later if you want,' so we had some beers stacked up. But it was nice to have everybody get together and eat together and talk about what we're going to do."
That day would be the first of many difficult days for the people of Kauai. JoAnn Yukimura, Kauai Mayor at the time remembers them well.
"For all of us it got us down to our basic values. We didn't have hot water, and we didn't have ice all the time or refrigeration, and some of us didn't even have our houses. And yet we had each other, and we found a way to work together to survive and then go on and indeed now thrive."
Twenty years later, Bubba's Burgers is thriving. With 3 locations on Kauai, John, Andrew and Debbie have worked hard for this success. But some would say that at least some of their good fortune comes from their generosity on September 12, 1992.
Greco put it in perspective.
"I remember a lot of grateful people. They were kind of blown away that we were giving the food away. We didn't have a cash register, so we didn't have much choice anyway, but that wasn't our point. We wanted to cook the food off before we had to throw it away, because it was going to go bad if we didn't get rid of it that day, and everybody else was in the same boat."
John did add that a number of Kapaa restaurants also contributed to the effort that day. Together? They fed about 850 people.