Smartphone users in Hawaii were alerted with this warning on Saturday: "Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill."
Understandably, the reaction was a collective sense of panic.
Fortunately, the warning was a mistake inadvertently sent by a careless employee at Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency (EMA), but the hysteria was already set in motion.
It took 18 minutes for officials to announce the blunder via email, but it still took 38 minutes for any kind of followup text to be sent to mobile phone users.
Many residents feared for their lives as they braced themselves for an end that wouldn't come.
A visitor from the UK, Emma Hine, recalled the harrowing moment to BBC.
It was one of the worst experiences because I actually thought we were going to die. I've got a daughter - Chloe - back home in the UK and I thought 'I'm not going to get a chance to say goodbye'. Everyone was genuinely terrified.
According to marathon runner, Lucja Leonard, she heard accounts of children being shoved into drainpipes for protection.
We all just huddled together and just thought - well, you know - if this is going to be the end I guess we're in a beautiful place, doing something we love but - God - it was pretty scary.
In a Politico report, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai blamed government officials for lacking sufficient safeguards in place to prevent transmissions of a false warning.
The false emergency alert sent yesterday in Hawaii was absolutely unacceptable. It caused a wave of panic across the state — worsened by the 38-minute delay before a correction alert was issued. Moreover, false alerts undermine public confidence in the alerting system and thus reduce their effectiveness during real emergencies.
So how did residents react during what they thought would be their last moments on earth?
My mom started to get up to go and my Dad told her that if it was their time to go, he wanted to be looking at the ocean and enjoying the view.— Andy Priest (@PriestOutWest) January 13, 2018
My mom then yelled at my Dad for being an idiot for 10 minutes.
There was an Emergency alert for a missile threat in Hawaii around 8 am Hawaii time. My mom texted me around that same time, "I love you" and it's just now clicking why she randomly sent me that 😭 because she thought that was her last moments. I'm sitting at work crying.— k i m ☾ ✨ (@kxmbrly_) January 13, 2018
This user was informed by her own son.
She had a legit question. Yes, what do we do???
Immediately after receiving the false warning, University of Hawaii at Manoa students scrambled looking to take shelter.
There is no correct answer for what to do in preparation for an impending catastrophe. But these Canadians may have been on to something.
This man embraced his fate to seek out greener pastures. Because not even a ballistic missile would interfere with his passion.
Just got this text from a friend re: Hawaii:— John Haltiwanger (@jchaltiwanger) January 13, 2018
“My friends are in a ‘fall out shelter’ in Hawaii due to the missile threat and hanging with Magic Johnson.”
Get a false nuclear holocaust alarm, hang with a legend. Only in 2018... 🤦♂️ pic.twitter.com/Lg0AwJUy5D
Despite the false alarm, it was a good reminder for people to express to their loved ones how much they mean to them.
So what's to be expected for accountability? Dan Rather had a sound suggestion.
I think Hawaii should buy everyone on the islands a drink of their choosing - on the state.— Dan Rather (@DanRather) January 13, 2018