Wrong button

Wrong button

The warning signal chirped on our cell phones — not true … no Hawaiian birds could possibly emit such a chilling noise. (Bird reproduction would plunge as mating calls were drowned out.)  It was the same incessant beep sent out to alert us about island floods that never challenged us but jolted us out of whatever we were doing in quieter times. Mysteriously, the morning was clear and dry as could be.

First, Bill’s phone at 8:06, and then mine two minutes later: “Emergency Alert… Ballistic missile threat inbound Hawaii.  Seek immediate shelter.  This is not a drill.”  Disbelief mingling with shock.  Where could we possibly hide in the wake of a nuclear attack?

Nothing on the tv or radio to support this claim. But we’d been personally informed. Had North Korea taken aim? We called Myles in Montana to say good bye and send our love. He fished around the internet and found a message from Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, 15 minutes later, dismissing the message as a mistake. Then, roughly half an hour after the alarm, a retraction appeared on our cell screens. This was not a drill and there was no such mission in progress. We could live, breathe, return to our day’s plans.

It’s one thing to discover on a rainy day that we were out of range of dodging a County flood, and quite another to learn that our lifespan, once about to be truncated, was back on target.  What if it were real?  Bill was thick into Daniel Ellsberg’s book, the Doomsday Machine, we’d watched 13 Days, Fail Safe, and remembered being shepherded into our school hallways for drop drills.

But for now, the attack had been averted and a Civil Defense employee was reassigned after pressing the wrong button.

Soon the word was out, first the aroused curiosity of a friend in DC — how long did it take before you got the retraction, her text asked. Still rattled, I gave the wrong answer to someone who feasted on trivia.







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