Imagine you were going about your day when you suddenly get this alert: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
That was the scenario that the people in Hawaii had to confront with, for about 38 minutes this past Saturday. Given the heightened rhetoric between North Korea and United States in recent months, the possibility of a missile attack wasn’t out of the realm of reality. By some estimates, a missile from North Korea “could reach Hawaii in 20 minutes.”
Needless to say, the alert caused a lot of confusion (Is a missile really on its way? Where is it expected to hit? How much time is left?), panic (What should I do and where should I go) and fear (Do I have time to say goodbyes? Is this really it?)
It was a Mistake
Fortunately, in the end, it was a false alarm caused by a state employee. Understandably, some people are angry. After all, this is a major scare — how could someone screw this up?
While I wasn’t there, I’d like to think that I would remain calm if given the same scenario. I’d verify the news (probably on Twitter), call my family to alert them, and then seek shelter. After all, what more can you do? (Other than hope that missile defense systems hold?)
While not quite the same, I had some scary brushes in recent years, from the wildlife encounter, to a car accident, and a major health scare for my Dad. When confronted in situations where you’re not sure how or even if things will work out, I learned that you can only deal with the situation the best you can.
Obviously, there are lessons in this incident: The state should prevent a similar “mishap” from happening.
There are some good reminders in there too: That missiles do not discriminate by race/gender/wealth and will destroy anyone in its path. That it may wise if heads of nations do not escalate tension unnecessarily, such as boasting about having a “bigger” nuclear button. That real lives are at stakes and that wars are not something to be taken lightly.
And that we’re all on borrowed time, so try not leave too many regrets on the table.
If you were in Hawaii during the false alarm, how did you react to the alert?