MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Emergency officials in Hawaii say a ballistic missile alert sent out to residents was a mistake.
Panic engulfed the island-state for more than 30 minutes Saturday, as people ran for shelter.
The alert said, in all caps: “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill.”
The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency says it was a false alarm, and they’re blaming human error.
Five generations of Natalie Webster’s family were gathered on the Big Island.
Webster was introducing her grandson to her grandmother for the first time.
What was supposed to be a happy family reunion turned into chaos, when for 38 minutes they all thought they would perish together by a missile headed straight for them.
Eight a.m., Hawaii Standard Time, an alert sent panic through paradise.
“All throughout the house there were 14, 16 of us there. You could hear phones going off and everyone getting the same message that this is not a drill, Hawaii is under a missile threat and impact could be within minutes,” said Webster.
The alert forced Natalie Webster and five generations of her family to think about the end.
“There was nothing we could do and it was completely out of our control. And like you said, it was just to the point where it’s choosing where you want to be and being thankful that we were together,” Webster said.
The alert sparked many to huddle together in closets while others made what they believed was their last phone call to loved ones.
“I went from feeling like it’s not real to praying that if it’s real that it happens quickly,” Webster said.
Webster says her mind was racing.
“It reminded me too of Pearl Harbor. For it to happen in Hawaii, and my grandmother was a young girl when the bombing happened at Pearl Harbor and she saw the planes fly overhead. Here we are again for 38 minutes believing that Hawaii is the target of a missile from another county,” Webster said.
It took 12 minutes for a lawmaker to tweet the alert was false.
But it took 38 minutes to push that message to smartphones saying there was no real danger.
“It’s a mistake but my hope is it’s a mistake that turns into a gift,” Webster said.
The ordeal has left Webster and many others in Hawaii shaken. She hopes visitors who endured this false alert will be moved to make a difference when they return home.
“Take it home to the mainland and get active and try and do what you can to ensure that this doesn’t happen, that things don’t escalate to where this is a true reality,” Webster said.
Webster says although she was born and raised in Hawaii, she is now a visitor.
She says visitors had no idea where to find shelter from a ballistic missile.