Lani Williams and her mother, Sincerity Mirkovich, long-time residents of Lahaina, on the Hawaiian island of Maui, were among those who had to quickly flee as a result of the devastating wildfires that had hit their town.
In an interview with “Good Morning America,” Williams described the chaotic evacuation scene, with burning embers falling around them and traffic coming to a halt.
She said, “Then we see another fire on the side of us, a whole house. We’re in the car and a whole tree is on fire, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to die.'”
Desperate to escape the advancing fires, Williams and her mother, affectionately known as Noni, made a brave decision. They realized their only chance of survival was to abandon their car and climb over a nearby seawall, seeking refuge in the ocean’s waters.
However, Mirkovich’s difficulty walking and reliance on a walker made the chosen escape route challenging. Fortunately, a stranger named Benny Reinicke appeared and offered his assistance. He proposed a solution to Mirkovich, suggesting that she lean on his back so he could carry her safely over the seawall and into the water.
“He’s like, ‘Trust me. Trust me. I promise. I got you,’ and he did,” Williams recounted. “He said, ‘Auntie, put your weight on me. I got you.’”
“I just kept thinking to myself, like, this is a young, healthy guy; he could have just left. He could have swam around to safety. But he didn’t. He stayed with us the entire time and made sure that all of us were safe,” she expressed.
Once they reached safety after leaving the ocean, Williams and Mirkovich, unfortunately, lost contact with Reinicke, the kind stranger who had helped them during their life-threatening escape. However, this week, a reunion took place thanks to “Good Morning America” (GMA).
Williams, Mirkovich, and Reinicke were brought together for the first time since their initial meeting, providing an opportunity for them to reconnect and share their experiences since that perilous encounter. Reinicke explained that he acted without any hesitation when it came to helping save Mirkovich and Williams. His immediate response was driven by a strong sense of urgency and a willingness to assist them in their time of need.
“There’s no way morally I could just walk past that and just save myself, you know,” he said. “It’s just not hard. It’s just the way my algorithm is in my head is. No way.”
In expressing her gratitude to the man who saved her and her mother’s lives, Williams told Reinicke that he had become a part of their “ohana,” which is a Hawaiian term for family. By using this term, Williams conveyed that Reinicke had not only earned their gratitude but had also become an important and cherished member of their extended family.
The wildfires on Maui have been declared the deadliest natural disaster in the history of Hawaii, with over 100 confirmed deaths and many more people still missing.