Hawaii is said to be the jewel of the Pacific.
But on Saturday morning, the island paradise became the world’s center of terror.
At 8:07 local time in Hawaii, thousand of islanders – accustomed to the laid-back atmosphere of the island and ready to bask in a weekend of surf and mai tais – received the a text message that read, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
And, with that, hearts – if hearts can – at once stopped and began to pound.
People began to wonder, “Shelter? What shelter? Where exactly do you go to protect yourself from nuclear attack?”
Some of the older set probably wondered if there were any of the old Civil Defense bomb shelters still in existence or whether their best bet was to follow the advice of Bert the Turtle from the old Civil Defense films shown in cold-war classrooms and simply “duck and cover.”
Television clips shown later shot from tower cams showed Hawaiians running in the street, doubtless not sure where exactly they were going.
The terror lasted as long as 38 minutes for some, when the Hawaii emergency alert system finally sent out a text saying the previous message was in error. Others found out more quickly, thanks largely to the efforts of Hawaii’s Sen. Tulsi Gabbard, who, immediately upon seeing the text other Hawaiians saw, began to check out its veracity and, when discovering the error, began to use all methods at her disposal to let her state’s citizens know the truth.
As for the emergency alert system, its performance wasn’t very heartening when it took 38 minutes to issue the correction and takes only an estimated 15 for such a missile to travel from North Korea, the likely suspect due to the recent Twitter war between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.
Still, to my mind, of all those involved with the Hawaii Emergency Agency, its administrator stood tallest. Vern Miyagi accepted total responsibility without even being asked. But when asked if he was there when the event occurred, Miyagi said, “No.”
Wasn’t there, didn’t see it, had no way of knowing how it occurred, but Miyagi stepped up and took total responsibility.
If only our government was full of such men.
Finally, after the incident, I began to wonder what do you do after a nuclear attack these days? Is it even survivable. Global politics are far from stable, and human nature has changed none in the last two decades. “The most persistent sound which reverberates through man’s history is the beating of war drums,” according to Hungarian novelist Arthur Koestler.
Well, the survivability of such an attack is debatable and may depend on how many missiles are launched. Remember, today’s missiles are far more powerful than those the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and it is likely that any nuclear attack would include multiple missiles.
Hopefully, the nuclear nightmare is one that none of us will ever have to face. On Saturday, our brothers and sisters in Hawaii briefly did.
And their experience at 8:07 a.m. local time is as close as anyone should ever come to what they were led to believe was reality.