As people all around the world heard, Hawaii had a terrible scare for 38 minutes on Saturday.
I was lucky. I slept through most of it. I probably had the easisest experience out of anyone I know.
I keep my phone on Do Not Disturb at night. I think that I somehow had my phone next to my face. I think that I hit my phone with my face, answering it in my sleep.
I woke up a few moments later to hear my friend Chloe screaming, “There is a ballistic missile coming to Hawaii. Find Martha and Julie (our friends who live in my building) and get somewhere safe. Angela and I are on our way to the base. I love you. I love you.” Click. I had 5 missed calls from different friends.
At this point, I don’t remember what was going through my head. I was scared, in a daze. I remember wondering if it was real. I don’t think I quite believed it but obviously I was going to act and find out.
I had no clothes on. I remember thinking, just put on the first clothes you find. It doesn’t matter what they are. So I picked up yesterday’s clothes off the floor and put them on. Then I wondered if I should call someone like my parents. Nick was and still is out to sea.
I immediately decided not to call anyone from home because finding out what was going on and getting to safety was more important. I think that was a good call.
As I was getting dressed, I called Julie. She told me that she and Martha were meeting in the lobby of our building. They had been banging on my door but I didn’t hear it. I stupidly got in the elevator. Another friend from our building texted me to tell me what was going on while I was still in my apartment.
I remember thinking, I probably shouldn’t get in the elevator. I should take the stairs. But I got in anyway because I wasn’t really thinking. While I was in the elevator, I checked every news site I could think of. I couldn’t find anything. I rememer thinking, at least Nick is going to be okay. Nick is going to be okay so I have to figure this out.
By the time I got downstairs, everyone knew that it was a false alarm. Our security guard was on his laptop and was looking at the news.
Shaken and unsure, we went up to Julie’s apartment and turned on the news. It was very clear immediately that we were not in danger. Julie made chocolate chip pancakes. We did a shot and then we drank coffee with Kahlua. As we were drinking, we got the official message that it was a false alarm.
We watched the news for a while and my friend’s news station from back home interviewed us. Watch it to hear my friend Chloe’s story. She didn’t have her car, and people kept passing her by as she asked them to help her get to safety.
Afterwards, we went to the beach. It was the most beautiful day we’ve had in a long time and Julie was adamant that we all get out and enjoy it. I wanted to stay inside and clean and Julie told me that after what we went through, cleaning was the last thing I should be doing. So we went to the beach and called our parents.
As all of this is happening, my brother was on a plane on his way to Hawaii! He had no idea about anything until he got here.
My friends and I have been together nonstop since this happened. Most of our husbands are out to sea still. Last night, about 12 of us were hanging out at my apartment. Still talking about it. Telling the same stories over and over. Trying to make sense of it all. Laughing at ourselves for doing weird things, the things we do when we are in shock. Realizing that most people suck (like the people who wouldn’t help my friend). Wondering if we can find the Marine who helped her.
We are thankful that it was a false alarm. But we are angry that it took so long for the government to send out a correction. Imagine thinking for 38 minutes that your life was going to be over.
This changed me in ways I am still processing, ways I still don’t know. And I can’t help but think, this is just one more thing that I had to experience without my husband by my side. Man, being a military wife is hard sometimes. I’m glad Nick didn’t have to experience this, but Nick will never understand why I will need a fully loaded emergency go bag at all times. He will never understand the bond I have with Chloe, Martha, and Julie after this. I hope that he will never hear the fear in Chloe’s voice the way I did.
One of my friends said that her best friend from home wants her to move back to the mainland. None of us are doing that. We are not leaving Hawaii. We are not leaving our husbands. Hawaii is still my home, and I am going to stay here for however long we are stationed here. I just became an official resident of Hawaii last week.
And as far as I am concerned, nowhere is immune. And really, if I were to go back home, I’d be going to New York. I was a high school freshman living on Long Island during 9/11. It was my first week of high school. 9/11 didn’t stop me from going to New York City, ever. It didn’t stop me from living in New York or from traveling out of JFK, or from flying at all. And in 2005, the subway bombings in London didn’t stop me from going to London just a few weeks later.
I refuse to let terror win.
I’ve been living with the constant fear of attack ever since I was 14 years old, ever since 9/11. It’s probably why I have read every end of the world book I could ever find.
And while there is always a small fear in the back of my mind, I am trying to live my life fearlessly. To me, that means not letting fear take over because there really is no such thing as being fearless.
What happened on Saturday won’t stop me from living in Hawaii, walking along the beach, and living my life. I refuse to give into fear or to stop living.