Thursday, May 23, 2024
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The last 12 minutes of your life

The alert that almost everyone in Hawaii got on their phone yesterday.

What would you do if you knew you only had 12 minutes to live?

It’s now been a full day since the ballistic missile threat to Hawaii was sent in error, and I’m pretty sure it affected every Hawaii resident in ways they didn’t expect. Sure, it sent people into a panic. Like it or not, it was also an extremely good test that helped to expose holes in the Emergency Management System, the media, and other government and security agencies. And most of all, it exposed each of us to an unthinkable situation that could actually happen soon. 


Like many AT&T customers, I didn’t get the alert on my phone (although I usually do). Instead, I got the news from my AdStreamz coworkers, who were simultaneously trying to contact various sources to determine if it was an error. They were pretty quick to get the facts straight for our little group, but if it were not a mistake, I think we would have been dead before figuring it out.

Civil Defense says that we have about 12 minutes to seek shelter from an incoming ballistic missile. The military says it will wipe out about 10 percent of our population. (I think that estimate is a little low, but what do I know?) And if we do find a suitable bomb shelter and survive, we actually can’t come out for a couple of weeks. Which fate is worse?

Throughout the day, as people went back to their schedules, they shared stories with each other and strangers of how they reacted to the alert. Clearly, everyone was psychologically shaken and in an unfamiliar state of shock. Many people called their families on the mainland to tell them they loved them. Others, unable to get through on phone lines, simply left farewell messages on social media. And of course, many people took their families to seek shelter. 

I think the shock to everyone’s psyche helped to reveal what’s most important to them and assess their lives. I don’t mean that they spent their 12 minutes wisely; some people, like Russ Sumida, made sure that all his electronics were plugged in. Sometimes you just react the way you would in a normal emergency. But this non-drill definitely gave people perspective on where they are in life and an opportunity to reflect if they could leave at any time with any regrets. 

I was getting ready for work when I got the texts from my coworkers. I looked in the mirror and realized that I was at peace with whatever was coming. You wouldn’t think it if you saw my stressed out life, but lo and behold, it was comforting to know that I’m okay with death. Good or bad, I don’t think anyone I know will leave this earth without knowing how I felt about them. And I may not have gotten through my entire bucket list, but damn, this has been a pretty full life.

At the end of the day, my cousin from California checked in to see if I had recovered from the scary false alert. I told her that due to the area and condo I live in, I’m pretty sure that in a real disaster, I would be toast. Her funny (but very true) response was, “Well, I would have been asleep, so I would be sleeping toast.” Honestly, if I had the luxury of time, I would go up to the roof of my condo and do one last livestream to finish with a blaze of glory.

Twelve minutes to live. What would you do?

And more importantly: What are you going to do now with your second chance on life?

4 thoughts on “The last 12 minutes of your life

  • Hi Melissa,
    I have AT&T and I got the message. When I got the message, I was way out in the ocean paddling, I didn’t panic, I wasn’t scared and I felt peace. There was nothing I could do so I just said a prayer, turned in the direction of Pearl Harbor and waited for the impact. I figured I’m going to have an awesome view, enjoy the last 15 minutes of my life and die doing what I enjoyed, paddling and being out in the ocean. I was ready for Jesus to come and get me. God is in full control and I’m leaving it in his hands. This was an awesome testimony of my Christian life in my walk with God that I was ready for heaven when it’s my time. When the day if or when it happens, no matter were I am or what I’m doing, I know that I will not be afraid, I will not panic and I will have peace with no regrets.

  • Hey Melissa,

    Our chat at Pearlridge Farmer’s Market, after we realized it was a mistaken alert, got me inspired that I want my firm to be a resource as much as it can be and so what did I do, I blogged about it. For me, I realized that attending the presentation, I had all this information that many others did not, as apparent in social media land, and so the best thing to do would be to share and educate. So for me, I think whether or not I knew it was the last 12 minutes I’d be one of those trying to survive, plan, and hopefully educate and inform. Some would survive such a nightmarish scenario, and those that do need to carry on and move forward. Someone’s last 12 minutes may serve to inspire other people’s next 12 days, months, or years.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this. I love hearing that you are at peace and I too felt the same way.
    I hope more people will have a chance to see this and will have more compassion and gratitude towards life.


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