On Saturday, Jan. 13, everyone in Hawaii received a message on their phones alerting them of an incoming ballistic missile threat and advising them to “seek immediate shelter.” The message was written in all caps with a grim “this is not a drill” tacked on the end.
I returned to school from my Hawaiian vacation to Maui on Wednesday, Jan. 17. When I got back, I was bombarded with questions.
“How was the missile warning?”
“Were you scared?”
“Were people rioting? Was there chaos?”
When I was asked to write this perspective, I immediately felt embarrassed. With shame, I responded the same way as I did to all those questions.
“I slept through the missile warning.”
It was about 10 a.m. when I woke up on Jan. 13. I walked out of my bedroom and was greeted with a familiar scene: my two brothers watching TV on the couch while my mom prepared breakfast, which happened to be grilled cheese sandwiches.
I thought the grilled cheese breakfast was the most bizarre thing I would see that morning, but I was quickly contradicted by the next thing that came out of my ten-year-old brother, Sankar's, mouth.
“Hey Vishu, there was a missile warning this morning!” he said excitedly with a smile.
My mouth curled into a smile and I frowned, thinking this was just a joke. Sankar is notorious for lying, oftentimes being accused of being a pathological liar by both me and my 13 year old brother, Vinayak.
“No, yeah, he’s right, there was a missile warning,” Vinayak said, as if he were reading my thoughts.
Sankar has a habit of waking up at six in the morning, earning him dark spots under his eyes at only ten years old. At 8:08 a.m., he was sitting with my mother (who also wakes up early for work), watching Love on the Slopes, via the Hallmark channel.
The two had almost polar opposite reactions when they read the text sent to my mother’s phone.
Sankar was genuinely scared he was about to die. He turned pale and sat in the couch on the verge of tears, as my mother described to me later.
While Sankar was prepared for the end of days, my mother suspected something was wrong. She was aware the the Hawaiian islands were equipped with “civil defense sirens,” so when they didn’t go off, she was skeptical. She immediately went on social media, looking for news on what was going on.
Two minutes after the missile warning went off, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard tweeted that the missile threat was a false alarm, and that there was no incoming missile. My mother read the tweet, and peace was restored to the condominium we were staying in. Vinayak woke up a few minutes later, and 38 minutes later, at 8:46 a.m., they received another emergency text reading that the missile threat was a false alarm.
Looking back, I’m a little annoyed that no one’s first instinct was to wake me up, but I also appreciated the 11 hours of sleep that I received that day.
I almost wish that my mom didn’t read that tweet, and I would be thrust into a once-in-a-lifetime experience of fear and panic. I could have written a much more interesting perspective on the 38 minutes of uncertainty that many lived out in the Hawaiian islands.