January 15, 2018

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.

11 responses to “38 minutes.”

  1. I seriously can’t even imagine getting a phone call like that from a good friend and thinking that your life was going to be over! That’s so scary! And I can’t believe that it took them that long to tell everybody that it was a false alarm either. I totally agree with you, that by changing your life you let the terrorists win. That’s why we visited Paris and London last year, even though there’d been terrorist attacks there, we still wasted to experience those beautiful cities.

  2. Jenn says:

    So glad everyone is OK!

  3. Amanda says:

    So scary, and I’m glad everyone was ok. That would be terrible to go through that without Nick.

  4. Audrey says:

    Your post has given me all sorts of feelings (and I’m definitely sharing it for other people to read). I’m so angry that Hawaii is so vulnerable. I know we can’t do much as far as location goes, but COME ON, government. An attack has happened once and it can most certainly happen again. But also, like you said, terrorist attacks and enemy assaults can happen anywhere at any time. We can’t ever let terror win or stop us from living our lives. Gosh, you video brings me to tears. I can’t imagine making that call to my parents or my brother. I think it would leave a permanent mark on my soul. And to go through it without your spouse… Ugh. Honestly, I don’t mind doing dangerous things without K because I would so much rather he be safe and away from the danger. I definitely understand your feelings on Nick being away. How absolutely paralyzing for you, though 🙁 I’m so glad it was a false alarm and you are all physically unharmed.

  5. Jen says:

    I am so so glad that everyone is okay! We have so many friends there and it was terrifying not knowing. Hugs friend.

  6. I’m so glad everyone is okay, and I’m so glad you have people there looking out for you.

  7. Rachel says:

    This is terrifying. When I heard about it on the news, I thought of you. I’m so glad you’re all ok, but nonetheless, what a scary situation. I’m so glad you have such good friends around you!

  8. Sarah says:

    Carolann this was such a beautifully written post – I didn’t even know about this scare until I read your post. I shared it with a lot of people who were talking about what happened. This part really struck me in particular:
    “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.”
    I’m sending you good and peaceful thoughts for your healing process <3

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Sending you all the hugs, friend! I’m glad you had friends with you during this and that you’re all safe.

  10. Emma says:

    I watched with horror as this unfolded, and I am so, so happy that this *was* a false alarm (having gone through a pretty serious earthquake myself) but are so frustrated that it took so long for the false alarm to be called!

  11. Julie says:

    This was so crazy! I’m so glad it was a false alarm. I remember my friend calling me from Tokyo when 9/11 happened and I was so confused as to what was happening (I was living in Manhattan then) and feeling like I was moving in slow motion. But yes, we have to keep going and stay strong! Thank you for sharing your experience.

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