Tri-State families feel terror of alert; say goodbye to loved ones in Hawaii

Tri-State families feel terror of alert; say goodbye to loved ones in Hawaii

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - An emergency alert warning of an incoming ballistic missile was accidentally sent to residents across cell phones, radio, and TV in Hawaii.

The false alarm may have only been sent to people in Hawaii, but emotions ran deep across the country. Even back here in the Tri-State.

Very raw emotions are still running high for people who heard that alarm. A quick message with no explanation had them counting down the minutes before an attack. People on the islands and their families back here could do nothing but wait and say goodbye.

It was a wake-up call unlike any other.

"Our phones went off with the alert. We thought it's probably an Amber Alert or something so let's get up and look," said Jennifer Williams.

It was 8 a.m. Jennifer Williams and her fiance Michael are vacationing in Maui.

"When we read the text it was like, 'Am I reading this properly?' Because it said ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill," said Williams.

The message turned the Evansville couple's vacation into a nightmare.

"We did the only thing we could do. We texted our family members and told them if this was true, we love you," said Williams.

Back in Boonville, Austin Van Hoosier answered when his brother called.

"He told me what was going on, and I didn't believe it at first, and then when he showed me the alert my heart just sank. You think to yourself, 'Am I going to say goodbye to my brother this way? Is this going to be the last time that I'm going to talk to him?'" said Austin.

Tyler Van Hoosier is stationed in Hawaii. He and his wife Selena have a baby on the way.

"We exchanged I love yous and then he got a hold of my mom and told her. You're just left speechless. You don't have any answers," said Austin.

Without answers or information for 38 minutes, the islands were in a state of terror and confusion. People were running and searching for safety.

"It said to seek shelter, but no one knew exactly where we should go," said Williams. "Some people were saying, if it's nuclear there is no place to go."

Williams' daughter in Evansville was the first person to tell her that the alert was a mistake. When we spoke with Jennifer, she still hadn't learned anything following the false alarm message.

Austin said the state of the world right now makes this threat feel all to real.

"Is everyone going to be ready now if this does happen again? It can happen," said Austin. "In the blink of an eye that's the last time we'll ever get to talk or even see him."

It is an unshakable reminder that tomorrow is not promised.

"Keep in touch with them as much as you can because you never know when goodbye is goodbye," said Austin.

Those aren't the only local families who told us how terrifying those minutes were.

Even though they now know it was a mistake, they cannot shake the fear. They are calling for more answers as to how this message could have been sent in the first place.

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