Well, Saturday sure has been eventful!
Around 6 a.m.
My husband and I teach our seven-year-old daughter not to stand in front of the refrigerator demanding cookies for breakfast. A few minutes later, I tell her she can turn on all the lights in the house when she is able to pay the electric bill. We mix in lessons about patience and gratitude for our modest but comfortable house, for the joys of a weekend, for her hula class in a few hours, for the YMCA down the road that has become our second home.
Around 7 a.m.
I start to write my blog post for the day as my daughter plays in her room and my husband, a teacher, starts to write letters of recommendation for his college-bound students. I make tentative plans to run a few miles to my office to get ahead with my work before joining my family at the Y.
Around 8 a.m.
Life changes rapidly. My husband receives an alert on his phone about a ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. My phone has the same message. Quickly we check the local news. Nothing. Finally, on PBS Hawai‘i, we find the warning. All this happens within two minutes. We hear our neighbor yelling. My husband and our neighbor head for the car. Unshaven, I throw off my pajamas and throw on a shirt and shorts. I pick up my bewildered seven-year-old daughter. She loses a sandal. I try to retrieve it but my husband and neighbor are in the car and tell me there is no time.
We head for a hospital a mile away, park, run in, and take an elevator one floor below with a long waiting ramp that leads toward the medical radiation treatment area. We are joined by patients, hospital personnel, and residents of Honolulu, old and young, frightened but also friendly. We reassure each other. People check their phones for the latest news. I need to find a bathroom but wonder if it is worth leaving my family. I decide to take the risk for a few minutes, wondering what the impact of a ballistic missile would feel like. I tell my family I love them. I wish, in our rush, that I had grabbed my grandfather’s rosary.
I come back to my family. I ask my husband to text a friend who is well informed about security in emergencies like this. Miraculously, the friend writes us back twice: the first time, he does not know what is going on, then, about five minutes later, his news helps us all breathe easier. A half hour has passed. We let our neighbor and our sudden friends at the hospital know we are safe. Our phones tell us the statewide alert was a false alarm. We head home with our neighbor.
Our daughter is dressed for hula. I’ve shaven. We’re ready for the Y. My husband tells me I need to change the theme of my blog post for today. I try three times to call my mother on the Mainland but cannot reach her.
We see our friends from hula. One of them tells us her sister and mother had run to their garage that morning, lay on the floor, and sobbed uncontrollably for about 15 minutes. The wonderful manager at the Y tells us about the concrete-fortified basement with enough food for five days. I shake his hand and breathe better knowing that the Y will be our new destination if we ever receive another alert like we had just a few hours ago.
Halfway to my outdoor running goal of 4 miles, I reach my favorite large tree. I hug it. On the way to it, I take a little extra time to say hello to people.
Nearly back at the Y, I stop at a cupcake shop I had always passed by. The family who owns it — a mother, father, and two young sons — open up to me that when they received the alert they held each other, said “I love you,” and then opened their business. We make a point of saying our names to each other. I let them know that I work right up the street and will visit again soon.
I need more running time. As I finish a few more miles, I watch the news on the treadmill screen. I learn that the alert was sent after an employee at the State Department of Defense and the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency pressed the wrong button.
We head home. Our daughter still has school assignments. My husband and I still need to catch up on work and laundry.
I finish this post. We’re headed for the grocery store. I’m left wondering if this had happened in another state, would people take to the streets, say enough is enough of having a sense, since the last presidential election, that we’re on a slippery road on a high cliff and with much luck have not yet driven off.
We’re pretty laid back in Hawaii. I’ve noticed people being kinder to each other and a few more hugs than usual at the Y, but in many ways it’s another warm Saturday afternoon, grateful for a few uneventful hours.