Hawai'i made national headlines after a false missile threat was sent out to almost everyone in the state yesterday. The message read:
The words "This is not a drill" were the scariest words I've ever read. I didn't receive the other "false alarm" text until a while later. Most people waited approx. 38 minutes to receive the "false alarm" message.
That morning, I felt my phone vibrate, but I assumed it was just an e-mail or text message. Something made me check it anyway. Thank goodness I did. As soon as I read the fateful message, I immediately sprung out of bed and ran to my mom's bedroom. "MOM! MOM!" I screamed, "I just got a message that North Korea has sent a missile. It says that it's NOT a drill!" My mom's innocent, tired face dropped with horror. She exclaimed "we need to call your father!" and reached for her phone. I called my boyfriend as I assumed she was calling my Dad, and I asked him if he heard the news. With tears starting to form, I breathed "Jaxon, if we die, I want you to know that I love you. I LOVE YOU."
My body was shaking and trembling with the fear of having myself, my loved ones, and the city blown to smithereens. I kept muttering to my Mom in a shaky voice "Mom-- I don't want to die. I don't want to die!" All she could do was keep her composure for me. The look on her face was one of pure despair. The missile could've explode at any moment, and there was NOTHING we could do about it. How could the world have come to this? How could everything just end this way? God, how I wanted to hold Jaxon in my arms one last time. God, how I wished I was with my father.
All we could hope and pray for was a miracle.
Please let this be a mistake. Please shoot it down. Please don't kill us. Please don't take our lives. Please don't take it all away. I'm not ready to die.
I truly believed it was the end of my life. After the denial, my body suddenly calmed down. I started to accept that I was about to be gone in a flash of light. I thought to myself "If I'm going to leave this planet and leave my body, why don't I try to do it by being as present as I can?" I started to slow my breathing, closed my eyes, and started to take in reality. For a split second, I felt peace. My body was shaking too violently at that point though, and I was soon thrown back into the spiraling fear that took over every part of my being.
Eventually, after what felt like eons, some of Hawai'i's news anchors came on the television and assured us that the missile threat was a mistake. My mother and I were so overjoyed, and yet we were still overcome with such fear and pain. I unwillingly broke down immediately in a flood of tears. My body was shaking more than ever as my loving mother held me tight and rocked me back and forth. I cried like a child. I sobbed in the safety of my loving mother's arms. We were safe. We weren't going to die. Thank God. Thank you, God.
Above: My beautiful mom overlooking Honolulu.
Soon, our fear and sorrow turned to anger and confusion. How could this have happened? Who was the bozo who let that come to pass? I recognized that my anger was a natural reaction, but I eventually started to feel sorry for the poor fellow. It was just a mistake. A stupid mistake, yes, but a human mistake that any of us could have made. It just had to be him.
Our anger eventually turned to shamefulness. Why weren't we prepared? We didn't have a shelter, a plan, or supplies at the ready. Nothing. We had nothing. Even if we survived the blast, how would we survive the fallout?
With all of these questions running through my head, I walked out into my living room, crying and smiling, and heard my neighbor blasting the song "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" by Bruddah Iz for all the world to hear. It felt like an anthem of appreciation directly linked to the Hawaiian culture, and it felt as if the land was proud and relieved as well. It almost felt as if the Hawaiian spirits protected the land and everyone on it. I sobbed at my window while looking out at my beautiful town. I could see the sunshine, I mean really see the sunshine, and I could hear the birds sing. I could really hear the birds. We were alive. We could live another day. Everyone wanted to live another day.
Above: I had the honor of capturing this beautiful rainbow while on a boat a couple years ago.
As my mother and I went on with the rest of our day, we saw nothing but smiling, celebration, and benevolence among citizens at restaurants and grocery stores. We treated ourselves to an expensive Japanese lunch too :p We gobbled, slurped, and savored every single bite. We were so glad that we still had the honor of experiencing the tastes and sensations that come with consuming a warm meal. I could tell that everyone was extremely grateful to be alive.
Since that incident, the mood here in Hawai'i has shifted, and suddenly, people seem much happier. We're also a lot more traumatized and weary, but we seem to be filled with more of the Aloha spirit than usual. We also seem to be developing a thicker skin that arguably wasn't able to form otherwise.
Perhaps, this terrible mistake was a way to scare us into facing our fears and loving our loved ones and even strangers the way we've always been afraid to. It was a wake-up call that we all needed. Of course, I've been having small mid-night nightmares about the incident, but overall I feel purely grateful to be alive.
I truly hope that everyone is okay, and I pray that no one got injured or hurt because of this event. I hope that we can all make this into a positive learning and growing experience as well. I will be most likely be making artwork and art projects based on these experiences as it has not only changed me as a person, but has changed me as an artist. I would love to hear your story about how you felt in that moment. Even if you are just a mere spectator, I would also like to hear your reaction to this event. If you would like to share, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or just comment below. I think it's important for us to get it all out in order to heal from each other. Most importantly, what can we learn from this experience? What kind of plans can we create now? What actions need to be taken to end this prelude to WWlll? I could go into more detail about it all, but this is enough for now.
In summation, it was the scariest moment of life, and yet it was the most eye-opening. I will never forget that day, and I will never forget what I have learned. If anything, this experience only makes me want to be the kindest and most courageous person I can possibly be. I hope it has had the same effect on others as well. Maybe, just maybe, there is an answer to all of this madness somewhere over the rainbow.
With deep sincerity,
P.S. You know what really has made this all better? Memes. A big thanks to all you meme-makers out there. Humor goes a long way.