January 13th, 2018 will be a day I’ll remember forever. It was the day I was told I had 10 minutes left to live.
At 8:08am, my phone blared with this Emergency Alert:
My mom came running up the stairs screaming, but all I could do was stand there. Whether it was disbelief or complete shock, all I kept thinking was: Is this really happening? Is this real?
I immediately jumped to all the news sites, social media, TV, radios – but there was nothing. People were talking about it on Facebook, posting the same screenshots of that emergency alert. But all the news stations were silent.
We didn’t know what to do. If it was real or not. Where we should go. How long we had. Where it would hit. We didn’t know anything.
So I called my loved ones, told them I loved them. And then I waited. My family and I sat and waited, because that’s all we could do.
10 minutes passed.
20 minutes passed.
Our world was silent. The streets were empty. The sound of cars ceased. Even the sound of my breath seemed to disappear.
After 37 grueling minutes, I got another emergency alert:
A false alarm. Sent to over a million people.
Over a million people were told they had 10 minutes before a ballistic missile would end life as they knew it. Over a million people hugged their loved ones tight and desperately made phone calls. Over a million people sought shelter in bath tubs, closets, parking garages, and storm drains. Over a million people lost their safety and sanity for 37 minutes because of one person’s careless mistake.
January 13th changed me forever. I now know what it’s like to be faced with a missile threat. I now know what it’s like to be told I have 10 minutes. I know what it’s like to feel completely and utterly helpless and scared beyond belief.
But possibly most importantly, I know what it’s like to wish for more time. I now know what it’s like to be faced with the threat of death, have an out-of-body experience and ask myself if I’d done everything in my life that I wanted to do.
While I was sitting and waiting for the inevitable, I asked myself these questions:
- Am I happy with how I lived my life?
- Did I accomplish enough?
- Was I nice enough?
- How will I be remembered?
- If I live, how will I live my life differently?
Then when I received that second emergency alert stating that it was a false alarm, I thought about all those questions I asked myself. And I decided that from this point onward, I’ll live my life as though I only have 10 more minutes. I’ll let go of the built up anger and stress and worry and just live my life.
Because you know what? In those 10 minutes, I realized that nothing matters. The cars in the driveway, the clothes in my closet, the university degree on the wall didn’t matter when we were faced with a ballistic missile or nuclear bomb or whatever we thought was headed our way.
So for the rest of my life, I won’t live as though those things are the only things that matter.
After we were 100% certain it was a false alarm, and we were safe, we decided to make the most of the day and do things we would miss had that threat been real. We went out on a boat and spent the day swimming with whales and listening to happy, country music and soaking up the sunshine.
We lived. We spent that day living and enjoying living and being grateful for life. And that’s what I plan to do for the rest of my life.