By Ron Mizutani
Story Created: Mar 31, 2009 at 5:38 PM HDT
Story Updated: Mar 31, 2009 at 11:40 PM HDT
Aloha Airlines final passenger flight arrived in Honolulu at 10:40 p.m. from Kahului, Maui,
exactly one year ago Tuesday night. A day later, 19-hundred employees were unemployed.
Some of the lucky ones found a way to stay a part of that special family.
Kamuela Clemente counts his blessings everyday. "I still have friends that are looking for work
or haven't found work comparable to what we had before. I also feel blessed to even have a job
especially in today's climate," he said.
For 16 years Clemente dispatched passenger and cargo flights on Aloha Airlines from this room
on Elliot Street.Now they're down to a chosen few. Clemente was one of 380 Aloha employees hired
by the cargo division's new owner. Seattle-based Saltchuck Resources purchased the profitable operation
for 10-point-five million dollars. "They stepped up the way they did because they saw the way the
employees stepped up. When we shut down for the few days, employees came to work for free just
to make sure that the customers that we had were taken cared of," Clemente said.
Customers were blown away. "They don't want to work without money you know you've got
to be paid when you work -- when they're working for free that's big aloha, that's called Hawaii,"
said customer Daya Nand.Pilot Dave Forsyth is one of 29 Aloha pilots hired by Saltchuck. 29 out of 350.
"We got guys in the middle east, India and they don't want to be there," he said. "People that left families
in Hawaii -- I mean they left kids and a wives and they're over in Japan or Korea or whatever, it's definitely hard."
He admits there are times when he feels guilty and asks why he was one of the lucky ones. "We're fortunate
to be in Hawaii and here with our families everyday, and I feel for them," Forsyth added.
Both men are happy they're still serving Hawaii, still moving more than 80-percent of the state's air
cargo shipments. "Yeah I feel like we're still connected -- to the same people that we were servicing
in passengers," said Forsyth. They've even got used to their new logo and colors. "It's different takes a
little getting used to but I think most of us like -- it kind of shows like a new beginning,"Clemente adds.
A new beginning but never forgetting old friends. "I don't think you ever forget. I think I'll remember
that day for the rest of my life, simply because of the impact it had on 3000 of us," Clemente said.
Forsyth says, "We're still Aloha. it's nice." "Just to say I can come to work, especially today with all
that's going is truly a blessing," said Clemente.