Her home was spared in the eruption. The problem? She can’t get to it.

Published: May. 2, 2019 at 12:30 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - While some Pahoa residents praise the work of county, state and federal officials in the recovery process, others are more critical ― like Nancy Seifers.

Seifers is softspoken and warm. But don’t let that fool you. She’s got strong opinions on how the government has handled the Kilauea eruption recovery ― and she’s not a fan.

One year after the eruption, she sat on the steps of her Pahoa home that was miraculously left untouched by the lava.

[Click here to see the full documentary, Pele’s Path: The Journey Home]

“This house is pristine. It’s ready to be lived in again,” Seifers said.

Although she is grateful the path of the lava spared most of her property, she knew her neighbors weren’t so fortunate.

“I felt at times that there was survivor’s guilt. Because I had … the means to start over. A lot of folks don’t still yet,” she said.

Before she evacuated her home at the start of the eruption in 2018, she prepared her house with good luck charms and trinkets in windows ― either to serve as a figurative wall of faith to protect her home, or as an offering to Madam Pele.

“I just figured I needed whatever blessings would come my way,” she said.

“Fissure 18 was raging by. I could see it before I last left. Fissure 17 was popping and cracking the ground open in the farm above me,” she recalled.

She held strong to her faith and her good luck charms came through, protecting the main home on her lot from complete devastation. A smaller side structure on her lot was lost in a brush fire that burned its way through the area.

But although her main home was spared, it’s unlikely she’ll be able to live in it anytime soon.

Getting to her home from the main thoroughfares once took five minutes, but with roads blocked by hardened lava and recovery blocked by government red tape, she’s left to hike or fly in to the property ― a tiring effort just to get to the place she once called home.

“Took me an hour and a half from the time I parked my car to the time I sat on this porch. Took me an hour and a half,” she said. “I’m old, so it was brutal. It was devastatingly beautiful, but it was brutal,” she said, about the hike in.

It’s this exhausting effort that Seifers says needs to not just be addressed, but addressed quickly.

She wants leaders at all levels to work together to bypass red tape, open emergency roads and restore residential access.

“Why can’t we have another emergency proclamation? Speed up this road process. Cut down some of the engineering and surveying and risk assessments and talk story meetings with sandwiches and cookies. We don’t need to talk story any more. These folks want to get back to their livelihoods and it can be done,” she said.

Gov. David Ige has signed many supplemental emergency proclamations freeing up funds for lava recovery, but residents like Seifers are left wondering where that money is going.

Unlike many other evacuees, she didn’t go to a shelter. Instead, she stayed with friends while finding ways to keep busy, and earn income.

“I didn’t go to a shelter, I never went to the hub. Because other people really needed that more than me. And I went back to work ― 70 years old and I went back to work so that I could afford to find another place to live,” she said.

It’s definitely not the way she imagined spending the later years of her life.

“Even though I had the means and the willpower to take care of myself, it was hard. It’s expensive. This is not the retirement I had envisioned for myself. I mean, I thought I would live here with no mortgage and grow my own food and be able to travel and just volunteer all my time,” she said.

Although the politics surrounding the recovery may be taxing on patience and nerves, Seifers is able to find a bright side to it all.

“When we all move back in, it’s going to be a much tighter knit community of people who are really willing to help each other. We’ll know each other now,” she said.

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