In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast “The War of the Worlds.” That was farfetched, of course.
But what happened on Saturday (Jan. 13), sadly, was not so hard to imagine … or believe.
Authorities sent an emergency alert to cellphones in Hawaii: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”
The possibility that a missile or missiles would land hung in the air for 38 minutes. That’s 38 long minutes while people sought shelter and reached out to relatives.
We imagine some wondered if they’d ever hear the voices of their loved ones again.
Thankfully, it was a false alarm.
In calmer times, such an alert might have been shrugged off by many people as a relic of the Cold War. Someone pushed the wrong button. No biggie.
Many Americans may believe this nation is 50 years past such dire alerts.
When a cellphone blares with an alert, people brace for bad weather. A tornado. A thunderstorm. Not a nuclear attack.
But a new nuclear threat looms. This time, from a North Korean dictator trading threats and insults with President Donald Trump.
What’s real? What’s political theater? What’s empty bluster for domestic audiences? We don’t know.
We do know that Hawaiians aren’t the only ones in range of a potential North Korea strike.
Washington, D.C., is also likely in range, or soon will be. New York, too. And of course, Chicago.
In December, for the first time in more than three decades, a warning siren sounded across Hawaii as officials tested a system that could alert residents that a nuclear missile launched by North Korea was headed their way.
Hawaiians now watch TV ads to prepare them for the worst, warning them to “get inside, stay inside” if an attack seems imminent.
Shades of the 1950s-60s “duck-and-cover” drills in American classrooms.
Saturday’s false alarm may be quickly forgotten.
But a terrible thought lingers: The next warning could be real.–Chicago Tribune