By Bradley Harrington
“Why don’t we listen to the voices in our hearts? / ‘‘Cause then I know we’ll find we’re not so far apart / Everybody’s got to be happy, everyone should sing / For we know the joy of life and peace that love can bring …” — Uriah Heep, “The Wizard,” 1972 —
It isn’t often when you have to seriously consider the possibility that one of your daughters is about to be atomized in some kind of nuclear attack, but I was given that opportunity just last Saturday, when SamiJo, who lives in Volcano, Hawaii, texted me this:
“Emergency Alert! BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
Which, of course, was followed up immediately by a phone call: “What the Hell is going on, Brad?” my stepdaughter asked me. “Is this for real? Should I seriously seek shelter?”
“You’d better,” I said. “Find a tunnel, anything. Get moving, take your phone with you, and I’ll call you back in a few.”
Luckily enough, I was already sitting in front of my computer. Searching Google for “Hawaii missile attack” yielded no meaningful results, so I typed in part of the message instead: “Ballistic missile threat inbound to Hawaii.”
That brought up a story out of the UK, informing me that everyone in the entire state of Hawaii had just received that text on their phones. The story even had a picture of the same alert I now had on my own phone, so … The alert was real. But was it true?
I called SamiJo back. “Keep heading for cover, Pretty Girl,” I said. “I can’t verify if it’s a legitimate alert or not. You’d better assume it is, until we hear otherwise.”
And there I sat, wondering if this was the last time I was ever going to speak to SamiJo again. Visions started swirling in my mind: Mushroom clouds over Hawaii, cities exploding, oceans boiling … And my daughter disappearing into a cloud of dissipating vapor …
“I love you, SamiJo,” I burst out. “No matter what happens, whether you’re still here in 20 minutes or not … I love you like crazy!”
Thankfully enough, however, about 20 minutes later, Hawaii got an announcement that the alert was bogus instead of having to suffer atomic incineration.
That didn’t change my experience of those 20 minutes, however: What if it HAD been true? What if, instead of being a cluster of gorgeous islands, Hawaii was now reduced to a series of blown-out craters on the floor of the South Pacific? With my daughter dead, along with another 1.5 million people?
We take so many things for granted, don’t we? Had I been as close to SamiJo as I could’ve been? Had I loved her enough? Was I ever going to have the opportunity to love her some more, again?
Thankfully, this time, yes … But which one of us knows what lies down the road just a few steps into the future? What man or woman among us can see all ends? Who can say who will suddenly disappear out of our lives forever, for whatever reasons, and have we had the kind of relationship and said the kind of things we need to say to those individuals, while they are still here?
Life is such a fragile and delicate gift, isn’t it? A number of years ago, back when my dad Byron Harrington was suffering from the cancer that finally killed him in 2004, we were talking about things …
“Was it a worthwhile trip, Dad?” I asked him. “I know you hurt, and you want to go … But would you have turned this ride down if you’d been offered the choice? Would you have passed on the opportunity to experience existence?”
His eyes grew thoughtful, and he paused before he replied: “I never thought of it like that before,” he said. “But, since you put it that way … NO! I’d never have missed this ride for anything. Not in a million years.”
So, yes, Hawaii’s bogus missile alert WAS an “opportunity” … An opportunity for me to reflect on the fact that this ride ain’t gonna last forever, so maybe I should be paying a bit more attention to just where I’m headed and how I’m getting there.
However, Dear Readers, do those risks mean that we should live our lives in constant fear? Should we be timid, worrisome and overly careful instead?
Not on your life! Ride, and ride in style! Just make sure you hug your fellow loved riders every chance you get , before the ride’s through …
Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on January 21, 2018.