This Is Not a Drill

A reflection on living and loving in this new atomic age.

Dennis Sanders

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The following is adapted from a sermon given on March 20, 2022.

January 13, 2018, was like any other Saturday morning. A Saturday morning in Hawaii probably included going to breakfast or walking down the beach and enjoying the ocean waves. Or maybe people were taking the opportunity to sleep in. It was a normal Saturday morning. Until it wasn’t.

At 8:07 am, people’s cell phones started to buzz across the state. A message appeared on their phones that said the following: BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Television had a more complete message: “The U.S. Pacific Command has detected a missile threat to Hawaii. A missile may impact on land or sea within minutes. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. If you are indoors, stay indoors. If you are outdoors, seek immediate shelter in a building. Remain indoors well away from windows. If you are driving, pull safely to the side of the road and seek shelter in a building or lay on the floor. We will announce when the threat has ended. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. Take immediate action measures.”

If you remember this was at a time of escalating tensions with North Korea. They had perfected their missile technology and now it could reach Hawaii and the West Coast. The people on the Hawaiian Islands thought that this was it. A nuclear missile was inbound and would soon hit Hawaii.

The result was that for half an hour, people took the announcement seriously. For 30 minutes, folks in Hawaii believed this wasn’t a drill, but the real thing. People driving on the interstate hid in a tunnel. Crowds at a gymnastic tournament left to seek shelter. Students at a local university find the fallout shelter only to find the doors locked. Cars sped down freeways at 100 MPH. For 38 minutes, people in Hawai’i truly believed their world was about to end. At 8:45 am, another message was sent out stating that there was no missile inbound, it was a false alarm. Other than the fact that thousands of Hawaiians were going to seek therapy, people tried to get back to enjoying a Saturday.

If you were in that situation, what would you do? If you knew that you only had maybe 30 minutes to live, what would you say? What would…

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Dennis Sanders

Middle-aged Midwesterner. I write about religion, politics and culture. Podcast: churchandmain.org newsletter: https://churchandmain.substack.com/