Aloha, friends. Usually when I travel, I like to think about how I will put into words what I see and do to give a glimpse at how a place looks or feels. And it’s never hard to come up with a way to describe Maui. I’ve visited four times, and it still seems fresh whenever I go. There’s always a new place to discover or a unique experience to try out (ATVs this year!). But on this particular journey, one story arrived on my last day and came at me like a ballistic missile out of the sky. Literally. Well, ok, it ended up being a false alarm, but for 30 minutes I felt my life might be over, or, at the very least, drastically upended, in the most horrifying of ways. Here’s how that morn went down…
Just woke up, it’s my last day, have to pack, lounging in bed. My phone starts to screech, not an unfamiliar screech, rare to be sure, but I’ve heard it before. Last year in Maui to be exact. At that time it was my sister and I getting these alarms on our phones as we were hiking in Honolua Bay. Then they were “Flash Flood Warnings,” now I look down at my phone and see a different message.
It doesn’t register right. What? Like, seriously, WTF??? I stare at all that uppercase lettering for 30 seconds trying to compute what those words are telling me. I can’t believe it. This can’t be real. Seek shelter? Where? How? Gah!
I go stand in the shower. Yeah, no, I did that. LOL! It immediately feels like a bad plan. I’m in a bathroom with a ton of glass and mirrors. Not a great spot to be in when the purpose of bombs is to explode stuff. Ok, think, think, what’s plan two…
Put on a bra. If there’s only one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that you don’t want your boobs flapping around in an emergency. I also think enough to grab my passport and phone. Really, the phone hasn’t left my hand since I picked it up. I’m clutching it like a Gen-Xer clutches their pearls when a Millennial does something they don’t agree with.
So, bra, passport, phone. That’s it. Out the door.
In the hallway I see three also petrified couples (two with small kids) waiting for the elevator. It’s quiet. We are all quiet. We look at each other, but say nothing. What’s to say, really? We all saw the message, there’s no time to complain or bemoan our situation, we have to move… together. And together we silently move towards the Exit stairs. We descend to the first floor. There’s an employee there looking as scared as all of us telling us to go to the employee cafeteria in the basement.
It’s a large room and there are already people starting to gather in it. The room is quiet and tense. One man is furiously flipping through the TV channels to see if any of the news channels are reporting on the crisis. No, just the usual Trump crap. Today it’s about “shitholes.” I think, “well that shithole man probably caused this.” You can’t constantly dare people to attack you, especially other mentally-inept leaders, and not expect someone to take the bait. I mean, if it was any other administration or year, I might not immediately think, “of course a nuclear war is about to happen.”
I look around and everyone is on their phone. Luckily, I’m getting Data coverage in the basement. That’s a first! I send a text to my partner and text to my group of friends. I don’t phone anyone. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to actually utter a word. If I don’t say anything, it’s not real, right?
I sit quietly texting, listening to the anxious murmurs from other folks, praying it’s not real. Please let this not be real.
“False alarm!” Dear God, it was a false alarm. 🙏🙏🙏 One of the resort’s security guards came to tell us it was a mistake. Instant relief. But also, why, what happened? She says the government sent out a note saying the alert was an error. I don’t know where that note was sent or to who, but ok. A few people are wary to leave the basement. Can you blame them? I started the trek back to my room. I’m a bit shaken, but so freaking relieved.
My phone goes off again with the alarm. It’s still clutched in my hand, so I see the alert immediately. This time it’s the “jk, false alarm, our bad” message.
I needed to start packing up my stuff as I had to check out that day, but I couldn’t, not yet. I needed a bit of time to breathe, talk to loved ones, be absolutely happy to be alive.
It’s an interesting situation. I was in no danger, there was no danger, just a normal, sunny morn in Maui. But boy, for a half hour there, did I think this was it. A part of me can laugh about it, how it was just nothing, but another part still feels the fear of that moment. And for those few short minutes between crisis and relief I did take stock on my life a bit and realized it’s been a nice one and a happy one and if this was it, well, then, this was it. ❤
By the way…
I worked in web usability and interface for years and this is no way to clearly present your content, especially content of SUCH IMPORTANCE! Ugh, serenity now.
This is the screen that set off the ballistic missile alert on Saturday. The operator clicked the PACOM (CDW) State Only link. The drill link is the one that was supposed to be clicked. #Hawaii pic.twitter.com/lDVnqUmyHa
— Honolulu Civil Beat (@CivilBeat) January 16, 2018