This is Not a Drill: The Alert in Hawaii and Chaos in the News

Image courtesy of the New York Times.

by Daisy Jasmine, Staff Writer

 

On Saturday, January 13, at 8:07 AM, an alert message was unexpectedly sent out to cellphones throughout the state of Hawaii. However, unlike the inclement weather warnings and similar notices typical of the mobile alert system, this notification carried a serious and terror-inducing message which read as follows:

 

EMERGENCY ALERT

BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.

 

In the moments that followed the alert, panic quickly spread throughout the state as people sought shelter and attempted to contact loved ones. Though the message did not specify anything beyond a “ballistic missile threat,” the state’s recent actions in running air-raid siren drills following a series of threatening online interactions between President Trump and Kim Jong-Un led the population to reasonably believe that the alleged incoming attack may be nuclear in nature.

According to Huffington Post, the ensuing chaos immediately after the alert led to numerous incidents such as car crashes and at least one count of a stress-induced heart attack.

There Is No Threat
A dystopian reassurance. Courtesy of Time.

And at 8:45am, a second notification was sent out, rescinding the first as a false alarm just as suddenly as it had been announced. For nearly 40 minutes, the people of Hawaii had waited with dread, anticipating a moment which no one had any reason to doubt would spell certain death—and all at once, the horror of the morning was brushed off as human error, as though sending out an alert of a missile attack was a simple workplace blunder on par with accidentally hitting “Reply all” on a sensitive email chain.

It is disconcerting to see how quickly this event has fallen off the public radar. For however short a time, a particular sort of crisis which has been largely considered defunct since the end of the Cold War shook the nation—and yet within days, we had stopped talking or thinking about it. Without so much as batting an eye, we moved on to the next inflammatory tweet from a public official, the next controversy surrounding misguided trends and laundry detergent pods, the next baffling piece of news. The US is becoming inoculated to chaos.

Yesterday in Kentucky, another school shooting took place—the 11th school shooting of 2018—and rather than responding with horror and outrage, the public has largely neglected to react. The gun control debate continues its stalemate amongst citizens on social media, without reaching the legislature in any way capable of marking the beginning of any real change. As horrifying as it is, we as a nation are taking a fatal shooting in stride. We have grown accustomed to breaking news of a new atrocity every few days, with little to no recourse available through our representatives—whether the crisis is a school shooting or a nuclear goof. It becomes more and more apparent that, as our tolerance for national nightmares climbs, something is broken in the system if we have lost our ability to make a change. So, we put off our outrage and the things that are the most important to us, in order to keep pushing through a day at a time.

Take a moment and imagine being in Hawaii when the alert was sent out—not just thinking, but knowing that your moments were numbered. If you had 40 minutes to live, what would you do? Who would you spend those minutes with, and what would you look back on fondly, while you still could? What would you do or say, that you had put off for longer than you could remember, always thinking that you would have time later? We live now in a chaotic world where each crisis is elbowed out of the way by the next, with little time to react. The improbable happens every day. It is no longer sustainable—nor fulfilling, nor healthy—to assume that the most important things can wait. Say what you mean, allow yourself to feel strongly about the things happening in the world, both good and bad, and appreciate the people around you now—and whether or not the sun still rises tomorrow, we will have had a richer today.

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