Lynette Sheppard
Jan 14, 2018 · 2 min read

Going Ballistic

15 minutes, more or less. That’s how long I have left to live. The emergency alert sounded its harsh tones and informed me that a ballistic missile was inbound to Hawaii. “This is not a drill,” the message concluded.

The phone rings and my husband is on the line, calling from the remote beach where he is photographing a community cleanup effort.

“I can’t get home in time. I love you — see you in heaven.”

I look outside, where the sun still shines, ocean waves lap at the distant shoreline, birds flit from tree to tree, and a breeze ruffles the palm fronds in the garden.

There’s nowhere to go, nothing to do, just wait. I’m old enough to remember “duck and cover” and hiding under a schoolroom desk. I’m savvy enough to know those measures are useless in case of nuclear attack.

I turn on the television where basketball players and political pundits are conducting business as usual. I surf the net, looking for info. Nothing. Could this be a hoax? A hacker? A mistake?

My husband calls again, breathless. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has tweeted that she has official confirmation there is no missile headed to Hawaii.

38 minutes or maybe a few years pass after the first emergency alert. My phone rasps again. “There is no missile threat or danger to the state of Hawaii. Repeat. False alarm.”

I take my first deep breath of the morning. Now what? Having been granted a reprieve, what do I do now?

I deconstruct the Christmas tree. I carefully wrap glass and shell ornaments in tissue paper. I untangle mini lights and stuff the strands into ziplock bags. I bury my face in my cat’s fur. I try to control my shaky hands.

I collect laundry from the clothesline, fold it and place it into the correct drawers. I make and eat a piece of toast.

Then I sit down to write, feeling my way forward, knowing that this was a dress rehearsal and the danger is not over. Not by a long shot.