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When you think you are about to die.
On January 13, 2018 at 8:07 AM, I heard a familiar noise. A noise that means there may be a flash flood or an abducted child, but this time the noise meant something far more sinister. This time the noise meant that me and my family were more than likely going to die in less than 15 minutes. The feeling that washes over you when know this will be the outcome, but at the same time you want to live so you do everything you can to protect yourself and your family.
The noise came first, the blaring ear shattering noise. Then panic. Then you look at your children and hope that this is some kind of mistake. You replay the words in your head THIS IS NOT A DRILL. This cannot be happening.
First ripping the air conditioner from the window so you can get it closed. Closing the blinds as if that is really helping anything at all. Telling your oldest child who is seven to grab all the pillows and blankets in the house and put them under his bed because the bed frame has two feet under it and you know you can squeeze everyone under it. Then frantically grabbing everything in sight that will hold water and filling them as fast as you can. Putting the remaining beds up on the windows and securing them with your five-year-old's bed frame. Telling the oldest two to keep their baby sister under the bed with them. Dismissing your five-year-old that keeps asking if the lava is coming. No, no this is far worse than lava. This is the end.
As this is taking place, the TV is on and you can’t understand why there is nothing on the news about this. WHY. It said it was not a drill. It has to be real. So why are they not reporting this. Frustration with no one to answer questions. When you have done everything you can to shelter yourself you start to google for answers. You know in your mind that if it is real you only have a minute or two before it’s over and hopefully you will survive the blast and have enough supplies to shelter in place for at least two weeks. You then see reports that it is a false alarm. That’s can’t be right. After all it said THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Then more and more false alarm posts on Twitter. If this isn’t real why haven’t the news stations picked up on it yet. You know it has been more than 15 minutes so you feel a little safer each minute that passes, but still no official word. Then an agonizing 38 minutes later, you hear it. Another ear piercing screech coming from your phone. Then you see it FALSE ALARM. You breathe a sigh of relief. We will not die today.
Finally the news stations start to relay this message as you get your children out and start putting things back together reluctantly. For the next few hours you sit and watch them explain how this happened. The anger sets in. How, how did this happen and why. You call family who tells their story of being in traffic trying to get back to your niece who is with hundreds of other kids at a paddeling tournament. Your family on the mainland who has no idea what was happening. Your blood is still racing through your body and you still feel uneasy.
The days that follow are filled with news stories of people putting their children in sewer drains as their only resort. College students running to buildings on campus. Families saying their last goodbyes. A father who had to choose which children to be with in their last moments as he knew he did not have time to get to them all.
While the stories may be slightly different, everyone in Hawaii feared for their life that Saturday morning. Some knew their was nothing they could do and went about their day anyway. Some tried, even though they knew it wouldn’t do much. This should have never happened. The stark reality is that it could happen. It could be real very soon. This inside the brought to light how ill prepared we are if it was a real threat. No shelters and no real plan of action other than staying inside. That’s it just stay inside, in a home that most likely has windows that don’t shut or no windows at all. All of this is a real fear because it is possible to believe it would actually happen with the way our world is going today. Something has to change.
For those of you on the mainland that did not have to experience this horrible day, you should be grateful. Be grateful that you don’t have to worry about hearing that sound again. That you did not have to go through this terrible mistake. It certainly gave people a wake up call to love a little harder as today could be the last day you see your friends and family. This was not something that I would wish upon my worst enemy. This was the worst 38 minutes of my life. Feeling helpless.