Kris Fortner was enjoying a few additional minutes of snooze time.
The 45-year-old had just arrived to the Westin Nanea in Maui from the San Francisco Bay Area on Friday night, and his wife, Cathy Fortner, decided to let him sleep a bit more, so she took their two daughters for breakfast. Suddenly, Fortner was jolted out of the bed by a terrifying sound coming from his iPhone. The message shook him to the core: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
“I jumped up and got dressed but I kept looking at my phone, wondering, ‘Is this real?’ I wanted to keep thinking this has to be a test, but the message clearly said it wasn’t,” Fortner said. “I realized I had to find my family.”
Just as he was about to leave, Cathy Fortner arrived back in the room with their daughters, Julia, 6, and Maebe, 4. “She showed up in tears,” Fortner recalls, with a tone of incredulity in his voice as if he couldn’t yet reconcile the events of the previous few hours. “The hotel staff had received the same alert and told everyone to go back into their rooms and shelter in place.” People were running around outside, many in a veritable state of panic. Amid all the commotion, Fortner tried to keep his daughters occupied so they wouldn’t realize what was going on.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do when something like this happens,” Fortner said. So the communications specialist did what came naturally: He looked for answers on Twitter. Once he started seeing a few tweets that it was all a false alarm, he wanted to celebrate but was wary of doing so prematurely. He didn’t know who to trust. “I didn’t get why it took so long for information to get out,” he said. It wasn’t until the all-clear message came into his iPhone at 8:47 a.m.—40 minutes after the first warning—that he was able to relax.