Sunday, December 30, 2001


Post-Sept. 11
economic crash
biggest Hawaii
story of 2001

Far-flung events quickly
changed life here

From staff and wire reports

While the suicidal hijacking of four commercial airliners happened 5,000 miles away, the impact on Hawaii was immediate and devastating, with news of layoffs, consolidation and cutbacks dominating local headlines since Sept. 11.

The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon shut the nation's airports -- Hawaii's economic lifeline -- for two days. When the airports reopened, the flights leaving Hawaii were full of tourists desperate to get home, while the flights coming in were full of empty seats.

The monthly visitor count plummeted 34 percent in September and 30 percent in October. And while visitors from the mainland have returned to near normal, the high-spending Japanese tourists have been much harder to lure back.

Deep-sea divers from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit ONE, Pearl Harbor, descended 115 feet to the ocean floor to begin their dive to the sunken Ehime Maru in November. The sinking and recovery of the Ehime Maru was one of the biggest local stories of 2001.

The massive layoffs in the visitor industry started within the first week after Sept. 11 as airlines, hotels and the businesses that cater to them struggled to survive.

Since then, more than 43,000 people have filed initial claims for unemployment benefits, more than double the number from the same period last year. Bankruptcy also climbed and social agencies reported being overwhelmed with people needing help.

In an eventful news year, other top local stories included a string of legislative special sessions, the sinking of a Japanese school boat by a U.S. submarine, the statewide teacher strikes, resumption of live-fire testing in Makua Valley, ceremonies 60 years after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the conviction of a Honolulu councilman and the resignation of the state school superintendent.

Gov. Ben Cayetano called the Legislature into special session in October to help businesses and individuals hurt by the sudden economic downturn. It was the third special legislative session held since the 2001 Legislature adjourned in early May.

Simultaneous strikes for both the University of Hawaii and the Hawaii State Teachers Association began in April, bringing public education to a halt. Above, HSTA picketers Ellis Goto, left, and Pam Mew demonstrated at Washington Intermediate.

In June, lawmakers returned to work to pass three bills voided earlier when they were sent to Cayetano before final approval. And in July, the Legislature raised Hawaii's age of sexual consent to 16 from 14 with the first override of a governor's veto since Hawaii became a state in 1959.

Much of 2001 was taken up with the saga of the Ehime Maru.

It began Feb. 9 when the Japanese training fishing vessel was hit and sunk off Diamond Head by the USS Greeneville while the nuclear-powered submarine was demonstrating a rapid-surfacing drill for a group of civilian guests.

The submarine's skipper, Cmdr. Scott Waddle, was reprimanded by a military court of inquiry and forced out of the Navy. He retired at full rank and pension, raising criticism in Japan that the punishment was too light. Four other crewmen also were disciplined.

The Navy mounted a $60 million recovery effort that included towing the ship to shallow water and led to the discovery of the bodies of eight of the nine men and teenage boys killed in the accident. In November, the Ehime Maru was allowed to sink to its final resting place in more than 6,000 feet of water 12 miles south of Oahu.

Canadian publisher David Black smiled as he showed a copy of the Star-Bulletin after he emerged from the Federal Courthouse. On March 15, he took over the publishing of the paper and began the first head-to-head newspaper battle in Honolulu in four decades.

Just three days after the accident, six soldiers were killed when two Army Black Hawk helicopters collided over a remote military preserve in Kahuku on Oahu.

On Feb. 22, University of Hawaii football coach June Jones was driving on the H-1 freeway near Honolulu Airport when his car ran into a concrete pillar. Jones was hospitalized for nearly three weeks and underwent two major surgeries, but he recovered to lead the Warriors to a 9-3 record.

On March 15, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin published its first edition under the ownership of Canadian publisher David Black. The paper's sale ended a protracted legal battle with Honolulu Advertiser parent Gannett Co. and started the first head-to-head newspaper competition in Honolulu in nearly four decades.

April 5 saw the beginning of simultaneous strikes by University of Hawaii faculty members and the state's public school teachers -- the first such shutdown of a state's public school systems in the nation. Both strikes were settled by the end of the month, but the teachers' agreement was marred by a protracted dispute over bonuses for teachers with advanced degrees.

In May, Disney staged a $5 million movie premiere-extravaganza for "Pearl Harbor" on the flight deck of the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier in Pearl Harbor. Some Pearl Harbor survivors who attended the showing returned in December for ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the attack that plunged the United States into World War II.

University of Hawaii football coach June Jones' car sat on the H-1 freeway eastbound at the Nimitz offramp after his Feb. 22 accident. Jones hit a pillar supporting the Kamehameha Highway overpass, but recovered and led the team to a 9-3 record this season.

The 10-campus, 45,000-student University of Hawaii system got a new president over the summer. On July 2, Evan Dobelle succeeded Kenneth Mortimer, who had headed the university for eight years.

The following day, Honolulu City Councilman Andy Mirikitani became the highest-ranking elected official in Hawaii convicted of federal felony charges while in office. He was found guilty of theft, bribery and extortion for receiving kickbacks from two aides he had given bonuses. Mirikitani retired Dec. 1, less than a week before being sentenced to four years and three months in prison.

In September, federal health officials confirmed four people in East Maui had dengue fever over the summer, the first cases contracted in Hawaii in more than 50 years. Since then, the number of confirmed cases in the state has risen to more than 90, but most were treated at home for the nonfatal ailment.

The Army resumed exercises and live-fire training in Makua Valley in October, after a three-year legal battle with groups concerned about damage to the environment and native Hawaiian cultural sites at the isolated Oahu site. New limits were put on the firepower used, but lawyers for the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund said they saw the need for such training in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

State Schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu resigned in October amid allegations he had an intimate relationship with a woman whose company was awarded a contract to help the state comply with the Felix consent decree. LeMahieu had denied the allegation, but later admitted to the affair with Kaniu Kinimaka-Stocksdale. The Board of Education named Deputy Superintendent Pat Hamamoto to succeed LeMahieu.

The day after Thanksgiving, department store chain Liberty House, a Hawaii retailing institution for more than a century, opened its doors as Macy's, which had bought the company earlier in the year.

And this month, Hawaiian and Aloha airlines announced plans to merge, raising fears of higher fares and decreased service. The airlines cited the economic downturn since Sept. 11 as a contributing factor in the need to consolidate.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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