News & Politics

Woman Recounts Her Terror During Hawaii's Nuclear False Alarm

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un gives a New Year's address for 2016 in this undated photo. In the nationally televised address, Kim pledged to seek improved relations with South Korea and boost his country's economy. (Kyodo)

Residents and visitors of the state of Hawaii got a rare opportunity to consider their mortality and life choices after a nuclear false alarm rocked the state on Saturday. The alarm, officially the result of someone clicking the wrong option on a drop-down menu, terrified many.

Tree Davis, military mother of four, recounted her experience. “The alert went off, and to say I felt sheer terror doesn’t even seem to adequately describe how I felt,” Davis said. “For all I knew, a deadly missile was barreling toward us and we were all probably going to die. I had to get my children to as safe a location as I could.”

Davis considered how best to keep her and her children safe in the case of a nuclear detonation.

“I shoved my four kids into my closet and slammed the sliding glass doors. Wait. Flimsy glass doors? They were going to shatter and become like shrapnel, right?! Not to mention, it would be best to be on the ground floor lying down, so maybe if we survived the initial blast we’d have a chance of surviving the aftershock? Probably not, but I wanted to give us the best chance,” Davis recounted.

Reading her account, I couldn’t help but think about what it was like during the Cold War.

We’ve all seen the footage of school kids going through drills to “duck and cover” by jumping under their school desks — as if a piece of wood and a millimeter of steel would protect you during a nuclear blast.

Davis’s panic is understandable. It’s borne of two factors: her noble determination to protect her children, and her lack of preparation for an attack. “There’s been talk in the news of how to prepare, and the hubby and I had talked about stocking up on supplies. Extra water bottles in the laundry room is as far as we actually got around to stocking up on supplies. To be honest, it seemed like such an impossible scenario,” Davis noted.

Frankly, no one can criticize her. Crazy as he might be, Kim Jung Un launching a nuclear attack on the United States would be trying to commit “suicide by apocalypse” — and he isn’t, say, an apocalyptic Islamic zealot like the Ayatollah. Why would someone in Hawaii prepare for something like that?

Yet that’s the reason for her panic. The “duck and cover” drills during the Cold War weren’t about protecting children. But about giving people the illusion they could survive an attack. It was about preventing the panic Davis experienced.

If you want to curb that panic, it’s worth it to do research and to know what actually could help you survive a nuclear attack, and to see if it’s wise to invest in such preparation. The knowledge could at least provide peace of mind.