Sunday, January 14, 2018

Onward -- Again

Yesterday at 8:07 a.m., I was woken by a high-pitched tone and this message on my phone:

I jolted up out of bed and scrambled with my family to -- 

to do what? 
I know I've read about this, but I can't remember anything right now. 
Why can't I remember? 
This: we only have minutes. 
Where are my jeans? 
Is this real? 
Oh, God, he really did it -- 
that last tweet about the nuclear button sent North Korea over the edge. 
Close the windows. 
Where are my jeans? 
Get the water bottles. 
Canned goods. 
Where are my jeans? 
Is there a shelter? Are we supposed to go somewhere? 
We only have minutes. 
Check the site. 
It's down. 
I can't find my jeans! 
Turn on the TV. 
Is this it? 
I'll just wear pants. 
Call Mom. 
I love you. 
Love you. 
Love you. 
What are the neighbors doing? Where are they going? 
The school isn't any safer. 
They left their dog outside. 
Can we bring dogs? I can't leave them. 
We can't leave. There's no time. 
At least we are together. 
Where do we go? 
Where are they going? 
Try the radio. 
Nothing? Still? 
What is happening? 
God be with us. 
At least we are together, at the end. 

Then, finally, on a local TV channel --
false alarm. 

Are you sure? 
How can you be sure? 
What is happening? 
Please, God. 
Why are the newscasters wearing suits and red dresses and so much makeup? 
Did they really stop to get dressed before going on air with this? 

38 minutes after the first message, the false alarm was confirmed. 
Operator error. 

And I went outside and stared at the sky and
thank you, God
thank you
thank you
thank you
for this day
for this life
thank you
thank you
thank -- 

and then the anger

because we all believed -- 
because it was real until it wasn't -- 
because we live in this world: 

And the neighbors returned home,
children still crying.
The child who left her dog behind asked me,
"Did you take your dogs?"
Don't worry, I told her,
I was watching out for yours. 

And throughout the day, I felt as if I was moving under water, 
every trivial act of living -- paying bills, hitting "like," deciding what to eat --  
suddenly heavy, weighted, 

and I returned to myself several times that day,
not realizing that I had just been sitting or standing, motionless, 
concentrating on the cadence of my breath. 

I slept fitfully, staring at the illuminated time on the clock, 
minutes that I would not have been present for,
and in my dreams, a sudden startling,
and in my waking, an unquiet mind. 

What are we supposed to do? 


  1. oh...... so bad .I feel for you and the people in your community. I understand your anger.

    1. I wish I could release it, let it go, but the root of the problem remains.

  2. What an ordeal for you. I immediately thought of you as you're the only person I know of in Hawaii. At least it was a false alarm. But you are right. What are you supposed to do?

    1. I still feel helpless. A doctor friend of mine mentioned that we will likely be seeing PTSD-like responses as a result of this experience. A 38-minute false alarm was still very real while it was happening.

  3. I too thought of you because I don't know anyone from Hawaii either. My heart breaks for all of us. I hope you can find a way to let us know how your high school kids react to this. Jill, your writing is beautiful, and I have saved your 2 Feb 2017 Post: "...worrying, all the time, about our country -- our world, in fact -- and where we are headed. The antidote for hopelessness, I have found, is in our youth. Being a teacher is, for me, an experience in hope." We need to take care of each other.

    1. Janet, I'm so touched by that! I, too, have been thinking about my students for days now, trying to find the words. I have an "Art of Argument' class that is likely going to approach this differently from my "Poetry Workshop" class. Either way, I need to help them to find outlets and to give voice to what they are dealing with. I spent so much of my childhood worried that the U.S. and Russia would engage in nuclear war at any time, and now a similar fear is gripping my daughter's generation. It's sad and sick, but this experience is going to teach them -- at least, those who were here to experience this -- to work even harder to be the hope that the world needs.

  4. Hi Jill... I am so sorry you had to go through such a stressful event. No doubt people will suffer from PTSD in the coming days and months. You are the only person I know that lives in Hawaii, so you can be sure that you, your family and fur babies were in my thoughts. Sending big virtual hugs your way.

    1. Thank you so much, Gina -- that means a lot.

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I mentioned this alert that happened to my son (he is 16) and he still had trouble understanding just how scary it would have been. I shared your words with him and it gave him a little bit more of an understanding. As scary and sad as your words were, thank you for sharing.

    1. Charlene, I'm so touched that you did this. In speaking with my high school students today, there were mixed reactions. Everyone copes differently, but one thing is clear -- everyone who experienced this was changed in some way.

  6. 38 minutes is a lifetime. If it weren't Him I wouldn't have even thought it to be real.
    It's insane that this could be a reality because of overblown egos and toxic masculinity.
    Love to you all Jill.