Serene morning turned into ‘mass hysteria’ on roads
that WE won the election!” the president tweeted Saturday night.
In the hours after the false alert, images and postings on social media showed people flooding area highways, crowding into police stations and seeking shelter in concrete structures including parking garages. One unconfirmed Twitter posting showed a resident lowering children through a manhole in a sidewalk.
Courtney McLaughlin, a wedding coordinator on the island of Kauai, said the alerts quickly turned a serene Saturday morning into “mass hysteria” on the roads.
“My boyfriend was like, ‘Who do we sue for this?’ We don’t just need an apology; we need an explanation. Someone could have had a heart attack,” McLaughlin, 29, said. “It took something that’s kind of incomprehensible and very quickly made it very personal. All of a sudden going through your mind is, ‘Is this the end of my life?’ I called my mom, I called my dad, I called my brother and basically said my goodbyes.”
Toni Foshee, a resident of Palolo, said she and a friend visiting from California reacted as if a hurricane were coming – making sure her cat was indoors, shutting windows and waiting.
“I think I was just kind of numb,” she said, adding that they learned the alert was false after calling the police.
“When I heard it, my stomach dropped,” said Roc Dias of Kaneohe, on Oahu.
U.S. military personnel stationed in Hawaii described moments of near desperation.
One Navy sailor, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters, said that he awoke Saturday morning in Honolulu to his girlfriend asking him about the alert. Shocked, he turned on the television looking for more information and called his mother in Massachusetts to let her know what had happened and say he loved her.
The sailor eventually called the Honolulu Police Department about 10 minutes later, and the dispatcher told him that the alert was a mistake.
“How can that happen?” he said of the error. “How can you allow to that to happen? There’s just an anger that goes with it. Even now, I’m shaken that it happened. You go from thinking you might die to this. It’s just a weird feeling.”