PAHOA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Amber Makuakane has lived in Leilani Estates for nine years. It was home — the only home her children ever knew.
Now the Pahoa Elementary School teacher faces this reality: Her home is gone, swallowed by fountains of lava erupting from a fissure that left her lot nearly unrecognizable.
"I remember when I left and I locked the door, I remember telling myself this may be the last time I come back," she told Hawaii News Now, holding back tears. "And if it is, that's OK. This will be the beginning of a new chapter in my life and I know that God has greater plans."
Authorities say at least 30 homes in the Puna subdivision, home to about 1,700 people, have been destroyed and dozens more are threatened by eruptions that show little sign of abating.
Makuakane said she last saw her home standing Thursday afternoon, when she evacuated with her two children, ages 7 and 4.
The family of three had just minutes to get out from the time a police officer knocked at her door to the time they fled.
A GoFundMe page has been started for the Makuakane family. To help, click here.
Makuakane said she grabbed what she thought the little family would need for a few days away from home: Clothes, a few mementos, some hygiene products.
Then she rushed out the door, shepherding her children in tow, and headed to a friend's house.
That night, she couldn't sleep. Adrenaline. Fear. Anxiety. She wanted to be optimistic — and realistic.
The following day, she got a call from her alarm company: The alarms at the house had gone off. Either the lava had destroyed her home, she thought, or someone had gotten in to look for food or shelter. She prayed it was the latter.
But in the subsequent hours she learned the truth: Confirmed, finally, with an aerial video that showed her lot covered in tar black lava. There was not even a suggestion that a home had ever stood there.
Despite the loss of her home, Makuakane is grateful — grateful that her children are safe, that she's OK, that she has a strong support system in family and friends. She'll need that support system, she said, in the coming weeks and months.
She'll need that support system when she finally sits her kids down to tell them what happened.
"It's really difficult," she said. "My son asks, 'Mommy, can we go home?'"