Saturday. January 12, 2018. At 8:07 am the people of Hawaii were startled with a message on their phones and televisions stating, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
During the winter season, people can usually find me at the ILH paddling races on Saturdays. On Saturday, January 12, crews from all the ILH schools were setting up for the girl’s race at Magic Island when the sound of the emergency alert for iPhones went off like a sea of sirens. Everyone including me looked confused because the skies were clear and the waves were calm, which to me was a perfect race day. The first thing that came to my mind was a tsunami, but when my friend showed me the emergency alert, I saw otherwise. In a matter of seconds, what was once a peaceful race site turned into a chaotic run for shelter. Hundreds of paddlers, tourist and locals ran for Ala Moana, while the others desperately jumped into cars to drive away.
I didn’t panic as the other people did. I was shocked, but my first thought after I read the alert was pray and hope someone made a mistake. I knew that prime targets to hit would be the main Department of Civil Defence base, which is located in Diamond Head, and Joint Base Pearl Harbor. These two locations were fairly close to where we were located so I knew that we could be within the blast radius of the missile. I gathered a group of my paddling friends, and I had one of them read a verse from the bible. After the reading, I prayed for protection and accepted the fact that it might be my time to leave this earth. Moments later, Braxton, a paddling friend, wanted to paddle out, so he gathered enough people for one boat. I was still very skeptical about the situation but assumed it was a false alarm because the Missile Sirens had not gone off. Coming back to my senses, I immediately thought about our team’s canoes and ran back to the race site with the group of people Braxton, and I gathered. I immediately jumped into the water and swam out to one of our boats that were floating away. One of my friends Shea hopped into the canoe and back paddled while I guided the boat back in the water. My team had also saved a lot of canoes, which had been left to drift away. Thought my second thought was to go back for the canoes, I was not alone. Brianna, an HBA paddler, and her mother also went back for the canoes. They had been in the water before I had gone back and said: “We were not going to let thousands of dollars drift away.” About five to ten minutes later one of my friend’s father, a Honolulu Police Department Officer, reassured us that it was a false alarm.
After 38 minutes of uncertainty, a second message was sent out that said “There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. Repeat. False Alarm.”
I had been fairly calm and didn’t panic as the other people did. Though I had accepted fate and decided to spend my last moments with my friends, this was not the same as the others. The people who had panicked put themselves in harm’s way by running through traffic and disregarded everything except their safety. This incident was an accident and a false alarm, but there is nothing that can be done to fix the emotional trauma that people went through. Seeing people bawling, scared and traumatized really made me appreciate my time on this earth. To me, this event was another one of those times where you can never take life for granted.