Nadia Wood, a safety engineer at Hensel Phelps Construction in Honolulu, was at work when she received the missile alert on her mobile phone.
“The alert said it wasn’t a drill which made me feel like I should take it seriously but I was on (Marine Corps Base Hawaii) and there were no sirens sounding so I was kind of confused,” said Wood, who is from Guam.
Hawaii residents went through a 30-minute terror on Saturday morning, bracing for the apocalypse, after receiving a text message about an incoming ballistic missile. Emergency officials announced later that the alert had been sent in error.
The alert, written in all caps, was sent to the island chain of about 1.4 million people. It read: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
“This was a crazy false alert, but I was near Ala Moana and panicking streets, along with residents running for cover,” Dr. Tom Shieh posted on his Facebook page.
“Errors like this need to be triple checked. Anyway, we are fine and thank God this was a false alarm,” wrote Shieh, a Guam-based obstetrician-gynecologist, who is visiting his home state.
At the height of the panic, Wood said her superintendent called her and asked what they should do. “I didn’t really know what to say because it was confusing,” she said.
On her Facebook page, Wood posted: “I just finished electronically filing all my paperwork for the past week. If the missile strikes, I’ll be p**** d that I spent my final minutes like this.”
Wood said Hensel employees later received an email from management saying the missile alert was a false alarm. But it took about 40 minutes for the government to officially clarify the scare-inducing error, she added.
Hawaii officials later explained that just after 8 a.m. Hawaii time, a state employee inadvertently hit the wrong button on a computer during a shift change and accidentally sent out an alert.The false alarm came amid the rising tension in the Pacific triggered by North Korea’s persistent nuclear threats.
Tess Borja, a law student at William S. Richardson School of Law in Honolulu, said she missed out on the adrenalin rush.
“I woke up an hour after outlets reported the incident. So it was old news by the time I even opened my eyes,” said Borja, who is also from Guam.
If a missile indeed were to hit Hawaii, Borja said she would brace it with a stoic "15-minute moped ride to Mount Tantalus," where she would “watch everything from the summit.”