January 13, 2018 – Hawaii’s Mistake Missile Alert

This morning was one of the most terrifying of my life. I am left feeling shaken on a level I haven’t experienced before and in an effort to calm myself, my nerves and try to relieve some of the tension in my body, I’m turning to the only thing that has ever worked for me before – writing. At 8:08AM this morning (January 13, 2018), Dane and I received a text saying there was an inbound missile headed to Hawaii and to take cover immediately. This was not a drill.

My very first thought was – but they didn’t sound the sirens. You see, we’ve been “practicing” for this since the fall when they would sound the sirens so people would get used to what they sounded like, be prepared, etc. Almost instantaneously, we heard our neighbor screaming. We knew that she had gotten the text too. It’s hard for me to put into words the next 20 or so minutes, because what do you do? What do you say? It’s almost as if a stopwatch had started with a very scary, unsettling stop time.

There are no emergency shelters or fallout shelters on Oahu, so that wasn’t an option for us. Dane’s immediate reaction was to start assembling water bottles and food for the dogs. My first instinct was to call my mom. I got ahold of my parents and the reception was spotty at best. I started to panic thinking…someone, somewhere has cut our power lines. I finally got a clear connection and explained to my mom what was going on and she burst into tears. I don’t think news like this hits you immediately – the magnitude slowly weaving its way into your mind. I got off the phone with my mom and immediately dropped to the ground crying – I was terrified.

I don’t want to die.

I’m so scared. 

I started praying.

While all of this is going on, we could see people outside our windows running down the street, one woman who had been out for a walk with her kids, now sprinting pulling a wagon. We saw military police vehicles racing down streets with their lights flashing. It was then that the missile siren started blaring. From previous media alerts, we knew that from the time the siren sounded to impact we had 11-13 minutes. Our friend, a chaplain, had called Dane to ask what we were doing and to invite us into a concrete sector of the church next door. All I remember thinking was…well, if we are going to die I would rather be in a church. We loaded both dogs, a water bottle and a bag of dog food into the car and drove to the church. In the short 2 minute drive, we passed police vehicles barricading the airfield while sirens blared. To say that it looked like a scene out of a horror movie would probably be an understatement. While this sounds like it took all morning, it all unfolded in less than 10 minutes.

We got into the church and Dane and I held each other. We cried. We told each other how much we loved one another. From the time we got the initial text to the time we got the second text telling us it was a “mistake” was over 40 minutes. Mainstream media was reporting that it was an error long before we ever knew as we had minimal reception and could still hear a siren going off.

Your life and mortality can flash before your eyes in an instant and today everything was put into perspective for us. Why it takes such a horrific, terrifying event to do this – I’m not sure. It was a definite reminder that each and every day is a gift. Every single breath is one to be cherished. If there are people in your life that you love – call them. If you care about someone – tell them. As I cried this morning, the only thing I could get out to Dane was “You have made my life everything I have ever wanted.” If ever there was a wake up call to live your life EVERY SINGLE DAY as if it were your last – this was it.

We all deal with panic differently. There are people, on social media and beyond, who have since been able to make light of this situation, create memes and overall downplay what happened this morning. And to that I say – that’s fine. Dane and I are certainly not falling into that category – the warning, what ensued and the sheer look of panic and terror on the faces of police and families is something that will haunt me. This morning was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. If you know your life could be ending in 11-13 minutes what do you do? Who do you call? Is there even an adequate answer this question? In my mind – no. You can say a lot of different things about what you would do, what you would say, how you could prepare…but the reality is that when you’re staring at that stopwatch ticking away…nothing matters except the people you love in this world.

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  • Katie

    I am so sorry this happened. It is my dad’s birthday and we were talking awhile ago and he asked if my husband knew anything about the false missile threat out there. I told him that as I understood it was a mistake on the civilian side. I am sure it will be the main topic of conversation at work Tuesday. I know it was absolutely terrifying and I am just glad that you and Dane were together when it happened.

    • It was the scariest morning of my life, so thank you for taking the time to stop by and read my story. Those 40+ gut wrenching minutes for us and countless others seemed to go on for hours and hours.

  • Oh my god, I am so sorry. I felt your panic and heartbreak as I was reading this. Sending love and hope you are able to find some peace ❤️

    • Thank you so much for your sweet comment. We are taking it easy for the rest of the weekend and just trying to sort through a lot of emotions <3

  • Kait. I have no words. I am just so unbelievably sorry you had to experience this. And I”m grateful you are okay. <3

    • Thank you Joey. It was an unimaginably painful day. I appreciate your kind, thoughtful words.

  • I’m so sorry you guys had to go through this 🙁 I can’t even imagine! <3 *hugs*

    • Thank you so much Jenn. It still feels incredibly surreal and I think it will be awhile until I sort through all my emotions. Thank you for stopping by and leaving such kind thoughts. XO

  • Erin Shepherd

    I’ve followed you for years because you are so real and just to the core, a good person. You’ve inspired me to run races I never thought I was capable of. You inspired me to travel. I feel like you’ve welcomed us into your life and I feel like I know you. I cried reading this. I can’t imagine you having to go through this. I pray that you find piece of mind and comfort after such a traumatic experience. It seems as though you’ve already turned this into a lesson, and yet again, that’s inspiring. Thank you for being you and sharing that lesson with us. You, Dane, and your fur babies will be in my thoughts!

    • Erin – you are so thoughtful and your words this morning mean the world to me. I am so lucky to have people like you in this community who have been around for awhile and genuinely wanted to reach out. Thank you so much for reading and leaving such unspeakably kind thoughts for me to wake up to. XO

  • We couldn’t FaceTime since the reception was so crappy, but calling my mom was the most painful thing I’ve ever had to do. My dad later told me her legs gave out and he had to remind her to breathe. It was horrifying. A good friend of mine here said she was holding her baby, because she knew if the missile did impact that she didn’t want her baby to die alone. All such horrifying thoughts. Thank you for stopping by and leaving such kind words. XO

  • Laura

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I can’t even begin to imagine what I would have done in that situation and I am just so happy everyone is physically ok (mentally I’m sure will take a while). While not even close to the same thing, I lived in Boston during the bombing (3 blocks away from where it occurred) and it was by far the scariest week of my life. The feeling of not having any idea what’s going on, trying to get through on the phone to find out if your loved ones are alive, and just the general panic of something like this I can relate too. It took a while for my mental state to get back to where it was before and that is ok. Be kind to yourself over the next few weeks/month/year and remember to do those things that make you happy and make you feel like you can escape even if it’s just for a few minutes. So happy y’all are ok!

    • Thank you so much for stopping by today, Laura, and sharing your experience. I know it’s going to be a little bit before I’m mentally in the right place again and I appreciate your kind words. XO

  • Jen

    Let me first just say that I am so grateful that you (and everyone else) is safe because as soon as I saw what was happening my thoughts went to you and others that we know there. I thank you for always sharing from your heart because it’s always genuine and honest. I cannot imagine what it felt like to go through this and I thank you for being so candid in sharing. Sending lots of love to you, Dane, Bill, and Judy. <3

    • Thank you so much for all of your kind words and messages over the past two days. You are such a great friend and I am lucky to have you. XO

  • Caitlin Watson

    Thank you for sharing your experience! I’m a school counselor here on Oahu and I definitely feel your pain. That was truly the most terrifying morning I’ve ever experienced. I also think it’s difficult for people off island to understand how real that situation was even though it ended up being a mistake and no one was hurt… however it was very real fear. I’m still processing… and also trying to be present and supportive to the children I work with! Anyways, I just felt compelled to say hello and thank you for sharing. Aloha!

    • Caitlin – thank you SO much for stopping by, reading and leaving a comment. I’m so glad you did! I agree with you that the fear and panic felt was so tangible that I struggle to find humor or relief in any of the jokes or memes I’ve seen. The chest-tightening anxiety and fear is something I hope I never have to re-live. Calling my parents, rounding up the dogs, all of it. It was very real and awful. I can only imagine what it must be like sharing that fear with school children. Thank you for all you do in the educational system. XO