ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A false missile alert in Hawaii sent many visiting Alaskans through a wave of emotions Saturday.
"It was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life because you kind of at first can't wrap your brain around it," Anchorage resident Sarah Freije said, "then you sort of realize how unprepared you are."
Cell phones across the islands lit up with a warning to seek shelter announcing a ballistic missile was heading to Hawaii. The warning also stated, “This is not a drill.” Freije is vacationing with family in Hawaii. She said it was her father's military background that led her to seek shelter in a garage where the family is staying.
"We were all actually at the point we were down on the floor in kind of an emergency position. I was lying over my son and had a blanket ready to pull over us in case there was a flash of light," she said.
B.J. Bains-Jordan left Anchorage a week ago for some rest and relaxation in Oahu. Once she saw the alert, she called her children in Anchorage and Nome, fearing it could be the last time they spoke. "We could barely talk because it was just filled with so many emotions."
Bains-Jordan said she could see the beach clearing from her condo on the 4th floor of the building while PA systems alerted everyone to seek shelter. "Your mind is going a million miles a minute,” Bains-Jordan told KTUU by phone.
As many waited for what might happen next, government leaders took to social media to say the threat was not real and the message went out by accident. Some Alaskans say the startling text serves as a reminder that more personal preparation is needed. Bains-Jordan said she doesn't have a go-bag packed with essentials on standby in case some type of disaster were to strike.
Freije said it was an adrenaline-packed 38 minutes that left her feeling thankful. "I felt so incredibly blessed, because in that moment, I completely trusted our military and knew they were doing whatever they need to protect us.”
“I felt a sense of gratitude in that I have experienced my entire life without ever having to go to the point of having to cover my son and try to protect him,” she said.
Editor's Note: Family members of KTUU employees were interviewed for this article.