In perhaps the worst reply-all misclick in recent memory, people in the Hawaiian islands recently were blessed with 38 minutes to think about the true meaning of life. While an imminent missile alert warning text might sound like the screenplay of Final Destination 6, it was, in fact, a reality for thousands of visitors and more than 1.4 million Hawaiian residents on Sat, Jan 13, at 8:07am. No one was able to confirm if the threat was real or not via Twitter, a.k.a. the unofficial messaging system of the United States government, but CNN later reported that the governor of Hawaii does not know his login or passwords to the commonly used social media site.
Walker Turney, a Fort Worth native and Realtor with Northern Realty Group, just so happened to be folded over in child’s pose at the Four Seasons Resort in Maui when the text arrived. He and wife Allie Turney were taking a yoga class on a scenic garden terrace overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Still wearing a souvenir baseball cap from the resort, Turney recounted the surreal progression of events. The 32-year-old Arlington Heights High School alum reported that several phones dinged simultaneously during the class and that most shrugged off the text alert as probably anyone would an Amber or Silver alert. It was several minutes later that his wife showed him the text message and then took the phone to the class instructor, who, Turney recalled, looked at the alert and said, “Thank you. Namaste.”
Not satisfied with the idea of continuing to practice warrior and tabletop, Turney’s wife, an alumnus of All Saints Episcopal School and TCU, convinced her husband to roll up his mat and skedaddle.
“There was definitely some shocked looks, people moving quickly in different directions,” Turney recalled.
A few minutes later, the hotel staff started to respond to the warning and moved guests into a large ballroom, where it was hard to miss the presence of 6’9” Earvin “Magic” Johnson. Turney said the basketball legend was staying a few doors down on the same floor, and he saw Johnson again when the guests were all seeking shelter and alcohol. “If Magic is here, I thought luck was probably on our side,” joked Turney.
“People,” he continued, “were mostly really calm, but there was an uneasy buzz. The people that seemed the most concerned were the young and expectant mothers, and understandably so.”
Turney applauded the professionalism of the hotel staff, emphasizing their calm and resolute demeanor. “We all had a pretty good idea that if the threat was real, that it would be coming from North Korea,” Turney said, “probably a nuclear weapon, so there wasn’t a heck of a lot we would be able to do about it.”
Turney stated that he was with his ohana, in a magical place, so it wouldn’t have been the worst way to go. A follow-up message, revealing the false alarm, was a pretty big relief to the guests and staff, Turney said.
CNN reported that the false alarm occurred during a routine drill run and immediately after a shift change. The emergency officer running the exercise inadvertently selected an alert template designed to send a message to the public, when the exercise was only designed to send the warning internally among the agency. The New York Times also reported that the head of Hawaii’s National Guard contacted the Hawaiian governor about the error within two minutes of the false alarm.
Baby boomers were likely not fazed by these events — they lived back when we were sure we would be bombed by the communists for our cassette tapes and blue jeans. Is it possible we are slowly returning to those times? We have swapped out air-raid drills in schools for seemingly more appropriate active-shooter drills. The air-raid drill: depicted in grainy black-and-white filmstrips of students ducking under particleboard desks for safety against nuclear weapons. More accurately, they’re balling up so they can kiss their own butts goodbye.
Resorts, yoga, and Hawaii sound like a guaranteed relaxation cocktail. The only assured destruction of this blueprint for Nirvana: a text alert regarding your impending death.
Turney said his adrenaline was definitely up for quite some time afterward and perhaps made the vacation that much more memorable.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect new information.