KIHEI - A solemn conch shell cried out across Ka Lae Pohaku beach as 20 canoes lining the shore converged on the water Sunday morning.
At least 100 paddlers from the Maui, Kihei and Wailea canoe clubs gathered to hold a memorial on the water in remembrance of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn.
At about 100 yards off of shore, the paddlers maneuvered their canoes and fanned out to form a circle.
Members from the Maui, Kihei and Wailea canoe clubs gathered Sunday morning at Ka Lae Pohaku beach in Kihei for a memorial in remembrance of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting. A ceremony was held on the water, with 20 canoes and at least 100 members participating.
The Maui News / NANEA KALANI photo
Kahu Kimokeo Kapahulehua, who is also president of the Kihei Canoe Club, led the memorial, which included the scattering of ti-leaf lei and flowers.
Maui Canoe Club President Mike Elam said that the idea for a memorial was suggested by a member, and later posted to the club's Facebook page to gauge interest.
"Club members and others responded, and it gained a lot of support," Elam said. "The Wailea and Kihei clubs wanted to be involved, so the ball picked up speed.
"We wanted to do something to mark our remembrance for the victims of the tragic Newtown, Connecticut, incident and give our members the opportunity to do that."
The event was mostly for members of the clubs, he said, but the public was invited to attend.
About a dozen onlookers stood on the shoreline and along a rock jetty. Some left flowers on the sand.
Kula resident Melissa Padilla watched from shore with her two toddler daughters.
She said her parents - both retired schoolteachers who are members of Maui Canoe Club - participated in the memorial.
"My mom was a 1st-grade teacher for 20 years, and my dad a high-school teacher for 35 years, so the tragedy touched home really hard for them," Padilla said.
Rick Wilson, also from Kula, watched from the beach with his dog, Rosie.
He said a close friend was paddling in the ceremony.
"I like to come down here anyway, but I wanted to see what this was all about," Wilson said. "It's a really nice gesture. I'd be happier if it wasn't happening for the reason that it is."
On Dec. 14, gunman Adam Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary School, killing 26 people, including 20 children, before taking his own life. Before going to the school, he killed his mother in the home they shared.
* Nanea Kalani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.