Dale Rosenfeld says she’s still learning to move on from Hurricane Iniki.
“There’s still so many people who are messed up from it,” she said. “In the past few years, I’ve really been working on myself and getting it out of my head and heart. Now, I’m feeling better about my life. But it’s been 25 years, and it still makes me cry.”
Rosenfeld, who lives in Wailua Homesteads, said the night before Sept. 11, 1992, the news stations said the storm wasn’t going to hit Kauai.
“So we went to bed and relaxed,” she said.
But at 5 a.m., she got a call from one of the tenants on her property, asking her what she was going to do.
“I said, ‘I’m going to get up in an hour,’” Rosenfeld said. “And she said, ‘Don’t you hear the sirens?’ We didn’t know the hurricane was on its way.”
Just months before, Rosenfeld had finished building a second home on her property. She had been living there for about two months when Hurricane Iniki blew over Kauai, leveling property in its wake.
“It was yesterday for me. I am no longer crying all the time about it,” Rosenfeld said. “I got to live with it and get over it.”
Rosenfeld, who was a teacher at King Kaumualii Elementary School at the time, leapt into action. She boarded up all the windows, packed their most important belongings in bags that could be kept on their bodies, and put the rest in briefcases.
Rosenfeld had 10 horses on her property at the time. She dismantled their paddocks to give them the freedom to be safe.
“I let all the horses loose from the paddocks because I knew their shelters would blow away, and rather than them be contained, I opened all gates, and said ‘Run away,’” she said. “They all bunched together, and I watched them, as a herd, shift as the wind changed.”
And because an off-island friend left her expensive computer equipment at her house on Fuji Beach, Rosenfeld went down the hill to bring it back to her house for safekeeping.
“We were sure water was going to inundate her house, and since we were at the center of island, it was not going to hit us so bad here,” she said.
They were wrong.
The power went out between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m., and the family took shelter in the bathroom of one of the houses.
As the hurricane continued to roar across the island, the roof was ripped from the top of their house, glassware was smashed and furniture was tossed through walls.
“We were mattress sandwiches. We laid down on a mattress, and someone covered us with another one,” she said. “We had the dogs, and they were with us, under the mattress.”
The hurricane took most of the day to blow over. In its aftermath, Rosenfeld said, they didn’t have access to water for months.
“Because we were so far up the mountain, we were on a separate water pump system that needed electricity,” she said.
Every morning, she would drive her truck to the river with trashcans to fill with water for the horses. And because horse feed wasn’t a necessity, it wasn’t being shipped to Kauai. So Rosenfeld mowed grass for them to eat.
The horses never left the property during the storm, and none of them were injured, she said.
During the recovery period, Rosenfeld helped her insurance company organize and prepare for the influx of people expected to file.
“I went in, and set up a number system like in a bakery, so everybody was seen in the order they came in,” she said. “They didn’t have to sit there for a day.”
Because the cost to rebuild one of Rosenfeld’s homes was too high, they knocked it down.
In addition to taking care of property, Kauai residents were trying to take care of themselves, she said.
“There was lots of counseling,” she said. “None of it helped.”
But despite that, the island came together.
“Everyone here was super supportive of each other. We all bonded over such a tragedy,” she said. “The Red Cross was awesome. They helped in every way they could. We had tents, cots, blankets, covers, towels from them.”
In trying to move on with her life, Rosenfeld tries to not pay too much attention to storm coverage.
“I get obsessive and try to turn it off when hurricanes are coming.” She said. “It was a horrible, horrible experience. But I still love Kauai, and would never leave.”