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.