Darlene Bailey was wishing she was back on her Ucluelet condo’s deck Saturday morning rather than watching waves crash off the coast of Kauai while sipping a coffee and waiting for an impending missile strike.
The Vancouver Island resident, and this reporter’s mother, was in Hawaii with her husband Nigel when they woke to alerts that a ballistic missile strike was imminent.
“At around 8:07 a.m., my cell phone erupted with a shrill sound and a text saying there was an incoming missile heading for Hawaii. It instructed me to take cover and warned, ominously, that the text was not a drill,” she said. “We, apparently, had 15 minutes before the missile was scheduled to hit. I heard a man screaming outside to his wife to get his children into the car and yelling that a missile was about to hit…’Oh boy. This is the end,’ I thought, hoping it would be quick.”
The cell phone alert, which read, ‘BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL,’ was reportedly triggered by a Hawaii Emergency Management Agency employee by accident, though it took roughly 35 minutes for the agency to correct the mistake.
Bailey said she and her husband spent those minutes drinking coffee together while talking about their two children and five grandchildren—they’re expecting a sixth grandchild this May—and tried to keep calm, unsure of what else to do.
“We knew that there were no nuclear fallout shelters, or at least none that we were aware of, on the island of Kauai, so we prepared to hunker down and wait for the inevitable,” she said. “Our first thoughts of course went to our children and grandchildren and the one we are happily anticipating in May, which I regretted I wouldn’t see.”
At around 8:45 a.m., the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency sent out a new alert that assured there was no incoming strike.
“It was a bit spooky when nothing happened at the 15-minute mark. I think we both wondered what was delaying the inevitable,” Bailey said. “Then the condo landline rang with a robotic recorded message that there was no incoming missile.”
She added local news reports began explaining the alert had been a mistake caused by human error and that everything was fine.
“I immediately called both my children to say, ‘I’m proud of you and I love you,’” she said. “Then [Nigel] headed to golf and I went to the pool.”