Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency (EMA) sent a mass text message alert to inform Hawaiians of an imminent ballistic missile attack from North Korea on Saturday morning. “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII,” the dire warning stated. “SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
The ominous and horrifying warning was eventually corrected by the EMA, but it took a mind-numbing 38 minutes for them to issue another text saying the original warning was a false alarm. In those 38 minutes, Hawaiians believed their world was truly coming to a tragic end. The horrifying accounts of people scrambling to take cover and saying their final goodbyes to loved ones are absolutely heartbreaking. There were numerous accounts of people on vacation receiving the warning or seeing it on TV and then assembling in the lobbies of the hotels they were in. Many were extremely panicked and some crying with tears of fear.
“This morning we were actually getting ready to go to the beach. I’ve got a two-month-old, my family was together,” Adnan Mesiwala said. “When we got the alarm, we were actually terrified. We’re on the 36th floor of our hotel, and we didn’t know what to do. We were kind of frantic, we got our shoes on, we’re about to come downstairs when the lobby told us to stay indoors. We’re still nervous. We were up 36 floors. We put the baby in the bathroom. We didn’t know what else to do – in a stroller – in case we had to run.”
“You’re thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, are we going to die? Is it really a missile (headed) our way, or is it just a test?'” Jocelyn Azbell told CNN. “We really didn’t know.” She did hurry in the hotel’s basement to take cover from the alleged missile attack.
“I wish I could say I reacted appropriately, but I froze,” Julie Hollenbeck, who received the message while packing to leave the Sheraton Maui, told Slate. “‘This is not a drill’ freaked me the eff out. I was terrified, my husband was terrified, and I instantly went cold.”
One man dealt with his impending demise in quite the Hawaiian way. “Well, if I’m going to die, I’m going to do it on the beach and have a Mai Tai,” Hollenbeck heard a man say as he laughed and walked toward the beach.
A father was faced with a Sophie’s Choice as to decide which of his children to see in the possible final moments of their lives. The dad’s eldest child, his wife, and his two youngest kids were in three different locations that were all far apart.
“Right now, I’m in tears, pulled over on Bishop Street. Just five minutes before warning, I dropped my oldest at the airport and drove to Nimitz Zippys,” the anonymous man wrote. “There I found out about the threat and had to decide whether to shelter there, drive to my two younger children at home, go back to the airport or go to be with my wife at work. None of these destinations were within 15 minutes of where I was.”
“I chose to go home to the two little ones – I figured it was the largest grouping of my family – knowing I likely wouldn’t make it home in time,” he said in a post that was shared by the Washington Post’s Gene Park. “I was tearing up South Street to the freeway when I heard it was a mistake. Fuck you Hawaii Civil Defence.”
Then there was this account of making the best of the scary situation.