After six days of rest and fun, Cheylynn Hayman woke up Saturday believing the last day of her Hawaii vacation would be the same.
She and her husband, Bret, came to Kauai from Centerville to celebrate her 40th birthday. They spent much of their vacation exploring beaches and forests, relaxing and taking silly pictures along the way.
The two were in their hotel room Saturday morning when their phones sounded the same shrill pitch they normally hear for Amber Alerts. This time, though, it wasn’t an Amber Alert. Instead, the message warned of an imminent ballistic missile strike.
“It was a surreal experience,” she said. “Because it’s really hard to process when you see a warning like that.”
Although the alert was a false alarm — a product of human error — Hayman didn’t know that. Neither did most people.
In the moments after she received the message, Hayman texted her kids to say she loved them, in case she never saw them again. Then she had to think of what to do next, grappling with the question so many did Saturday: What do you do in the event of a missile strike?
Ultimately, Hayman and her husband ended up going downstairs and waiting with other hotel guests in its ballroom.
John Wells, who lives in the Alpine-area but was in Hawaii for an orthopedic conference, texted his kids to let them know who was in charge of his assets in case he died. Then he got ready to golf. He had an 8:40 a.m. tee time.
“I mean, what are you going to do? There’s not much you can do,” Wells, 54, said.
Adam Wahlquist’s first thought when he and his wife heard the alert was: It’s just another flash flood warning.
Since he moved to the Big Island about three years ago from Salt Lake City, he’d gotten a lot of those notifications. Yet, he said, Saturday was a beautiful day. No way there was a flash flood.
The two didn’t even look at their phones. They went to watch TV with their 3-year-old son and then a warning started scrolling across the screen saying the missiles could hit within minutes.
“We thought that we were on the front lines of a war that was about to start,” he said. “It was terrifying.”
The family ultimately sought shelter in their bathtub.
In Salt Lake City, Mari Okami was at the library when her phone started buzzing. But she didn’t check it until she went outside and saw five missed calls from her mom, who lives in Hawaii.
About that time, she got a call from her panicked younger sister. That’s when she learned of the warned attack. She quickly got back on the phone to talk to her mom, though they didn’t talk long because her mom was busy helping strangers who’d stopped at her house seeking shelter.
“She was just kind of crying and saying that she loved me and whatever happens happens,” Okami said.
Okami, whose entire family is spread across three Hawaiian islands, didn’t know what to do. Learning you might lose you entire family in a missile strike is hard to process, she said.
So she slumped down next to a tree and cried.