GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As the death toll continues to rise in Maui, those who were able to make it out safely are now dealing with a plethora of emotions.

“It’s like you feel strong and good one moment, and then you feel like your whole world is collapsing,” said Lahaina resident Kirsten Matthews. 

Matthews grew up in West Michigan but moved to Hawaii a couple of years after graduating from Jenison High School.

“I came here just kind of lost and just really opened my heart here,” Matthews said. “Just learning about the culture and a different way of living … It’s just … it’s beautiful.”

Now, it’s difficult for her to hide her emotion when she thinks of all the island has been through.

Matthews lost her home, her jobs, and all her belongings, but she considers herself and her friends some of the lucky ones. 

“Some people don’t have anything. Or even, like, lost the home that they built,” she said. “I was just a renter. Like, it’s crazy right now just even feeling guilt when you’re part of it, too.”

When the initial storm knocked out power, Matthews says she and a group of others went to her friend’s house, which had a generator. 

“We’re all hanging out and just like trying to wait out the storm and the wind just kept picking up,” Matthews said. “And like, I’ve like been through a lot of storms here in the last six and a half years, but we’ve never seen wind like that.”

Eventually, they noticed the smoke outside. 

“It just kept getting worse and worse. We had friends going on bike missions, checking it out and then it got to the point where they were in the thick of it and couldn’t even see our hand in front of our face,” she said. “And so we came back and we were like, ‘We got to go.'”

They spent about five minutes gathering what they could before getting in the car and joining the rest of the traffic trying to evacuate.

“We didn’t want to go. Leaving like the home and just like feeling like we had no place to go,” Matthews recalled.

But she said they knew they had to get out. “Some people didn’t do that. Some people didn’t even know there was a fire.”

Because there was no service, Matthews said no one could get ahold of each other to warn anyone.

“That’s why this is so messed up,” she said. “And it’s like, so many people are dead because there was no warning.”

Matthews considers herself and her friends some of the lucky ones. For now, they’re staying in Kihei, approximately 25 miles from Lahaina. She has considered coming back to West Michigan to be with family but wants to be there for her best friend, who’s expecting a baby any day.

“Just taking it day by day,” Matthews said. “Hopefully, I can do something to help in the meantime. But after that, I think I find myself going home for a little bit using the support of my family.”

Her sister set up a GoFundMe to help Matthews get back on her feet. If you’re interested in supporting her, you can do that here

Nexstar Media Group is also accepting donations to support the American Red Cross in its efforts to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from these disasters.