The morning of Jan. 13, 2018, began as many days on the islands do, rich with birds singing, and the sun breaking through lingering clouds with a hint of a rainbow, filling the soft breeze with peace.
I was out for a morning walk with my son's dog, enjoying a stroll in paradise and feeling very blissful. Gratitude enfolded me as we walked towards the shopping center nearby so I could mail a card to my husband, who couldn't join me for this trip.
As I was about to cross the street, reaching for the "walk" button, my cellphone buzzed in my pocket. Little did I realize that our lives were about to change.
I stopped to read the message that stared at me from the screen of my smart phone. It stated a missile had been launched towards Hawaii, that we must find shelter, and that this was not a drill.
I read it twice to be certain of the message, as I thought I must have misread it.
When I realized the full impact of those words, my heart began to race as I trotted back to the apartment with dog in tow. All I could think of was that I had to get back and help get everyone get in a safe place. I called my son and he confirmed he had the same message, and he urged me to return ASAP.
Once inside the second-floor apartment, the television sped the same alert across the screen and then went black. Immediately, we agreed upon who should do what, gathering supplies into the bathroom where it would be the most secure place away from windows, with a strong inner wall support.
My son closed all the windows and we barricaded ourselves in the bathroom with emergency water (and filling the bathtub), baby supplies, a little food, the dog with his food, and waited. I held my grandson close to my heart while I breathed slowly and deeply to remain calm.
Not for one moment did I doubt we could all perish that morning or be sick with radiation poisoning or be wounded. I spoke briefly with my husband, telling him I loved him but I couldn't talk long. I was waiting for the sound of a loud blast and what might come next. It was nearly 40 minutes of pure terror.
Yet as I sat there holding my little precious grandson, I was deeply grateful. There was no place else on this earth I'd rather have been than right there at that moment. I knew I was where I was meant to be. A deep sense of peace and calm comforted my heart as I felt pure love and gratitude fill my being. To hold a little baby in my arms and to think that could be his last day was deeply agonizing.
Finally, official word came across our cellphones that the missile alert was a drill. To say we were relieved is an understatement.
I clung to my grandson with a grateful heart as the loquacious chirping of birds outside drew my attention to the screen door. I watched palm fronds rattling in the breeze and breathed a deep sigh.
May this nightmare never become a reality.
Marianne Bickett is a Sherwood resident. She originally wrote this personal remembrance of the false alarm regarding an incoming ballistic missile to Hawaii in 2018.
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