‘Mom? What’s happening?’ Being a mother in Hawaii during 38 minutes of nuclear t…


We knew there was a big swell coming in, so when the alarm blared on my phone at 8 a.m., my first sleepy thought was that we were flooding and needed to evacuate. It’s the waves, I thought drowsily. Then I read the notice on my phone.

“Emergency Alert BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

We’re not really disaster preppers on Oahu. Most of us grab our hurricane provisions in a mad rush to Costco and Walmart in the days before a storm hits. And we have a long history of pulling together during crisis. Aloha is a state of mind, but it’s also shown through actions. Our sense of community, known as ohana, is strong. We all sink or swim together. So that was the excuse I’d given myself for not ensuring that we were prepared as a family to shelter in place during a nuclear strike. That and a big fat case of denial that the country I love has devolved to such a place.

I was home with my daughter, my service dog Pono, and Rosie the chinchilla, who belongs to my daughter, Abby. When I read the alarm, I jump out of bed and grab my glasses. I run to Abigail’s room. “Get up honey. You have to get up right now. Right now. Grab your pillow. Go to the bathroom. Turn on the tub and run it. Turn it off when it’s full. Sit in the corner. Wait for me. Be brave. I’ll be right there.” I give her a hug and a kiss and run off.

I run past Rosie in her huge cage and make a calculated decision that she won’t come into the bathroom with us. The cage wouldn’t fit and I wasn’t about to have a loose chinchilla running around during a nuclear disaster. I think about how my daughter would never trust…



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