People flocked to shelters, crowding highways in scenes of terror and helplessness. “I was running through all the scenarios in my head, but there was nowhere to go, nowhere to pull over to,” said Mike Staskow, a retired military captain.
At Konawaena High School on the Island of Hawaii, where a high school wrestling championship was taking place, school officials, more accustomed to responding to alerts of high surf or tsunamis, moved people to the center of the gym as they tried to figure out to shelter someone from a nuclear missile.
“Everyone cooperated,” said Kellye Krug, the athletic director at school. “Once they were gathered we let them use cellphones to reach loved ones. There were a couple kids who were emotional, the coaches were right there to console kids. After the retraction was issued, we gave kids time to reach out again.”
Matt LoPresti, a state representative, told CNN that he and his family headed for a bathroom. “”I was sitting in the bathtub with my children, saying our prayers,” he said.
Around the Ko’a Kea Hotel at Poipu Beach on the island of Kauai, guests looked quizzically around, wondering aloud if the alert was real. Many, looking bewildered, made their way to the main lobby, where they were invited by hotel staff to shelter in the basement parking garage among the vehicles. Very little information was provided, and the sense of urgency and panic rose.
Within several minutes, about 30 people were huddled in the garage, some making phone calls or scanning Twitter for details. Others gathered together near the edges of the garage, trying to make sense of the alert. At least one young guest was crying.
Word spread quickly after Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii tweeted at 8:19 that the alert was a false alarm. The hotel staff, however, told guests not to leave the property until they got the all clear. Many decided on their own that it was safe to venture out once tweets began appearing from officials saying the alert was false.
In Washington, the White House said President Trump had been informed of the events. “The president has been briefed on the state of Hawaii’s emergency management exercise,” said Lindsay Walters, a deputy press secretary. “This was purely a state exercise.”
Senator Brian Schatz, a Democrat, said that the false alarm was the result of human error. “There is no missile threat,” he said. “It was a false alarm based on a…