HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Anyone who grew up on the Big Island remembers Harry Kim’s deep voice on the radio, informing residents of natural disasters.
While he’s leaving his seat as Hawaii County Mayor on Monday, it was his time as civil defense chief that made him a local legend.
In 1986, lava was devouring Kalapana. Firefighters tried to protect homes with fire hoses, but it was a losing battle so Kim used to a barricade to keep people out while helping others to evacuate.
“I remember the sadness of that,” said Kim.
As lava approached homes, Kim was on the front lines. He was a voice of calm even in the face of disaster.
“It’s not just a home. People don’t understand the loss of property especially from Oahu and the neighbor Islands. The land is something that will never be the same in their lifetime,” Kim told a KGMB reporter back then.
“It takes 200 years to make it look like this. There’s a lot of sweat and family heritage in that house.”
All these years later, he still recalls standing with families as their homes burned to the ground.
“I remember this family of that house and many others, trying to go to each home and staying with them until they have to say goodbye. It was a very, very difficult time for me to grow up,” said Kim.
Kim started with county in 1971. It was a time when Hawaii started to see the closure of plantation life.
“You want to talk about economic impact. You want to talk about hardship. Yes, today I’m not making light of today, but hardship was no stranger to many people of Hawaii,” he said.
Despite shouldering incredible loss over the years, Kim sees the good.
“I consider myself the luckiest human being on God’s earth for the way that people treated me and my family,” he said.