Fearing inbound missile, many uttered what they thought might be their last words

Updated: Jan. 15, 2018 at 1:10 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people in Hawaii uttered — and typed — what they thought might be their last words.

I love you, they told relatives far away and near. Whatever happens, stay strong.

Cynthia Manley was at home at 8:07 a.m., when the alert came through: "BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL."

She spent a few moments in panic — shock. She froze, she said.

Then, weighing her options, she realized the best thing she could do was send text messages to her daughters on the mainland.

Her youngest, Alyssa, just started college in California. Her oldest, Alanna, is a student at Seattle University.

"I started creating a road map of what I wanted them to accomplish and how I wanted them to move forward no matter what happened to me," she said. "I sent texts to them both so that if the missile hit sooner at least they would have something to read, to remember."

Her messages to her daughters are gut-wrenching.

To her youngest daughter, she wrote, "No matter what happens get your degree! Have a good life and be successful! And take care of your sister!"

To her oldest: "If this is the end, stay strong and and no matter what happens to Hawaii, take care of you and sis."

Within about 15 minutes, authorities were trying to calm fears, sending out tweets and Facebook messages to let people know the alarm was false.

And after a correction alert was sent out 38 minutes after the initial message was triggered, many residents and visitors took to social media — hands still quaking — to talk about how they reacted when they thought there was a chance they could die.

Patti McCormick Wilmoth, of Hawaii Island, said her sister on Maui called her when the alert came through.

"All we could say is, 'I love you and pray,'" she said, on Facebook. "When we found out it was an error, I was reminded about how every day is a gift and take time to love people because we never know when it will be our last."

A Reddit thread was created shortly after the false alarm was confirmed: "New life experience: Believing I may have 15 min to live. A million people went through this today. Did anyone learn anything interesting about themselves?"

The answer, from many, was yes.

"My mom sent me this heartwrenching text message telling me that she loved me and my sister very much," one Reddit user said. "I wasn't really thinking about anyone else in the moment, and was eerily calm. I only replied 'We'll be alright.' I feel horrible for not being able to reciprocate that love in that moment."

Another Reddit user wrote, "Gotta be honest, it was extremely painful and upsetting for me. I have two elementary school age kids and they were as curious and oblivious as ever, but they knew that something was really strange. I just sort of froze, but my entire body was trembling while I tried to think of what to tell them. ... For a few minutes I reluctantly accepted that my entire family might be dead soon, or maybe my kids would survive and have to figure out what to do next without a home or without parents."

And lots of folks agreed with this one, "I ... learned that I NEVER want to have that feeling EVER again."

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