There are some mornings where everything seems to just line up.
It can be for any number of reasons.
A perfect sunrise with the birds chirping. Ideal morning temperatures and your favorite cup of tea in hand. Heck, maybe the babies slept through the night for the third night in a row.
Like I said, some mornings, the stars align and it is, well, perfect.
This morning was that morning.
It is truly amazing what the day will bring when you’ve gotten a good night’s rest (or three nights, in the case of this lucky lady).
And as this perfect morning went on, my family woke up, joined me in the kitchen for pancakes and bacon, and everything was honestly right with the world.
Then, a split second later, an alert went off on our cell phones.
“BALLISTIC MISSLE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
The message came a little after 8:00 a.m. on a perfect Saturday morning, and every single bit of air that I had in my lungs was sucked from them suddenly and without warning.
Where do we go? What do we do? How do we protect the babies?? Has my phone been hacked?! Is this a joke?? THIS HAS TO BE A JOKE!!!
. . . all of these thoughts and a million more raced through my brain in a fraction of a second but a simple, “Nathan, look . . . ” was all that came out.
Surely he would look at it and reassure me that it was some kind of spam message. But he didn’t. Instead, he found his phone and it revealed the same warning. A quick shout from the balcony confirmed that our neighbor had received it as well. Then the texts started to come . . .
“What is going on?”
“Did you get a warning on your phone?”
“Get to a shelter.”
“What does Botts say?”
I couldn’t think clearly and I hadn’t moved. I just kept holding the kids waiting for an order.
Finally, my brain kicked in, and I heard Nathan say something about being under stairs, so I grabbed my babies and went down into the most protected room in the house, their room. I managed to ask him if we had water and somehow just kept moving.
My legs started to give and I sat down to watch the babies crawl around looking at their various toys and that’s when I started to think—
“We are going to die.”
People always talk about your life flashing before your eyes before you die, but I always assumed that was in an instantaneous sort of way. Something that happened as the headlights blinded you in the split seconds before a car accident. Never thinking about what would happen if I had a few minutes to wait for death to come, my mind was surprisingly blank.
As I sat there, on the fuzzy white carpet, running my fingers through the fur, nothing flashed before my eyes. No film strip, or regretful wishes. No desire to make final phone calls.
I kept my eyes sternly fixed, unblinking, upon my children and I started to shake.
Looking at them, the fog began to lift as I realized this could be our last minutes, what do I do?
So, I grabbed them both in my arms and gave them the biggest hug I could before they started to squirm away. I asked Reef for a kiss and got a big wet sloppy toddler one right on the lips. Then I kissed Roxy and breathed in that perfect smell that only babies have and I started to read.
My son and I picked Rainbow Fish.
We flipped through the beautiful pages and read the familiar story about giving to others and friendship.
I could hear my husband in the other room, being the man I’ve always known. Making phone calls, taking charge. Telling his mom to get to safety, calling his Sergeant, his military friend, the Civil Defense. Doing anything he could to debunk an alert that literally shook me to my core.
Then we got a call from our neighbor and Nathan went back upstairs to talk to him.
So I just kept on holding my babies and reading.
On the inside, I was crumbling, but all I could do was keep reading.
If our remaining breaths were few, the least I could do was make sure my children were not afraid…
The simplicity of the moment was almost beautiful.
And then Nathan appeared in the doorway . . .
“It was a mistake, it’s not real. We are OK. There is no missile.”
He grabbed our son and went back upstairs and in that moment I cried.
I cried out of fear, confusion, relief, joy. I cried because I didn’t spring into action like I thought I would. And because I didn’t fall apart like I thought I could. I cried because a million moments were suddenly given back to me that I was sure we were going to miss.
I held our daughter to my chest and let silent tears roll down my cheeks.
It took about twenty minutes from the first alert for the second to come:
“There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. Repeat. False Alarm.”
It took my husband a few tries to get me to come out of the room. But, I let the tears on my face dry as I smiled at my family and went back out into the world.
I watched my son dance. I watched my daughter play in her pool. A few minutes later, my husband and I put them down for a nap. I held Reef’s hand while I nursed Roxy to sleep.
It was perfect.
If I can take something from this experience and give it to others, it is this:
Find the people you want to be with at the very last moment. Those are the people who matter more than anything else in this entire world. It matters more than money, more than possessions. More than social media and any other number of insignificant things that take over our lives. You find those people and you cling to them with every ounce of your being.
It was the scariest day of my entire life. It is a day I know I will never forget.
But at least now I know, my life is enough. It is more than enough, it is wonderful.
And if at the very end, I am sitting in a room, with my babies, reading Rainbow Fish . . . well could I really ask for anything more?
Originally published on the author’s blog