Two days ago I thought I was going to die. I said my goodbyes. I prioritized things in the heat of the moment. I headed towards shelter as quickly as I could. I remained surprisingly calm under pressure. Thirteen minutes after the initial announcement, State Representative Tulsi Gabbard tweeted that it was a false alarm. Twenty five minutes after that another alert was sent out confirming that we weren’t under attack. Since then I’ve been trying to recover from the trauma, as has the entire state. We’re going through a collective trauma and the whole situation is very surreal.
The initial hours after it was revealed to be a false alarm was mostly followed by nervous laughter among my coworkers and memes shared among friends. I personally had a few hours of work to keep myself off most social media immediately following the event, which helped quite a bit. I couldn’t believe it had happened, but doing work and having time to ruminate over the experience mostly to myself was helpful. The only exposure I had was with the small number of coworkers that showed up in the office on a Saturday with only a few sporadic minutes online on breaks. It helped me cope with it in a way I saw fit for myself. This was basically introspection, memes, sarcasm, and pizza.
After work I began to immerse myself in the stories of others. Reddit was a gold mine of stories. Many people reacted similarly to myself, but it did vary greatly. Some just sat and accepted death, sipping their coffee as they enjoyed their last beautiful Hawaii morning on earth. Some thought it was a hoax or otherwise fake immediately and began to look for proof to confirm their suspicion. Some broke down crying and didn’t know what to do. We all learned a lot about ourselves in those moments. Some of it good. Some of it bad. Some of it in between. It was a day to remember, for sure. It was a day to consider aspects of ourselves we may not have considered before.
Of particular interest to me was who reached out to see if I was okay. It really made me realize who takes into account not only my physical well being (the whole event took less than 38 minutes, so those not plugged in to the news may not have timed to reach me), but my emotional well being (it’s been two days, but I’m still horribly screwed up, but those who have since made contact have helped). Two friends PayPaled me money for beer and it went to good use. I got numerous messages consisting of three simple words – “Are you ok?” A simple like on a Facebook post or a like on a Tweet let me know you were thinking of me. Every little bit of contact was monumental. People cared.
The silence from those I was expecting to reach out, however, was pretty deafening. That’s something I’ll be personally dealing with for quite some time. But I don’t want to linger on the negative for too long. There’s so much negative right now. I really thought the end was near. It’s hard to beat that, honestly. I want to stop the negativity there for myself, but this shadow of disappointment lingers.
Something that I’ve found quite appalling is people attempting to police other’s reactions in the aftermath of the alert. We’ve all reacted differently because it was a pretty extreme situation. I’ve seen some say people “cried too much.” Other say they didn’t seem to “cry enough.” I’ve seen others say they didn’t believe the stories of people keeping it together under pressure, one person on Reddit going as far to say that it read like a “bad book.” I’m sorry, but our lives are not your entertainment. This happened to us. I’m not at all sorry that it didn’t entertain you.
Our reactions are not here for your entertainment. Our survival skills are not here for your entertainment.
This is by far the most frustrating part of the whole thing. Please let others react how they see fit to the situation. We are all suffering from a collective trauma right now. We need to heal and trying to find a one size fits all solution to our psychological reaction to the event is not going to help. Be there for one another. Understand each other. Don’t act superior to one another. Be patient with one another. Be forgiving of one another.
It’s the first day of work and it’s the hot topic of conversation, of course. What else can you expect? Everyone has a story. It’s a “where were you on 9/11” story, but highly localized and, thankfully, no casualties (that we know of). We can laugh about it thankfully, since nobody was physically hurt (besides some bruises from falling as we fled for safety). Our stories can be humorous in retrospect. Some of us were in unfortunate predicaments when the alert went out (on the toilet, in the shower, sleeping naked) or said hilarious things in our panic (“I’m gonna die because of Trump tweets!”).
I’ve created a new category for posts related to not just this event, but anything related to threats like this against Hawaii. Check it out here. I’ll be posting a lot as I recover from this and as anything else happens going forward. Stay tuned.