Missile threat a lasting memory for couple

Lynn Robinson
Staff Writer

It's been three weeks since a dispatcher sent panic through the Hawaiian islands with what turned out to be a false nuclear missile alert. But it still has people there shaken.

And it's provided a lasting memory for a Golden Triangle couple.

It was early January when temperatures in the teens started settling in across the region. On the spur of the moment, Lynn Robinson got online looking for trips to Hawaii. He found a deal and he and his wife Sandy were off to Kauai.

They'd been there a couple of days and on the morning of Jan. 13 were headed to the famed Sea Glass Beach on the island when they received the notice of the inbound nuclear missile.

"We'd just pulled up to the beach when we saw the warning. We thought, 'Oh well, what can we really do about it out here?' There really was absolutely nothing we could have done about it," Lynn Robinson said of the couple's response.

After all, they were at the beach, not a place with bomb shelters on every corner. Furthermore, Kauai is the most northwestern of the major Hawaiian Islands. The main island of Hawaii is at the other end of the string.

"We figured for a moment that if it was real, it probably wasn't headed for where we were," said Robinson, who manages Air Control Engineering in Columbus and serves on the Military Affairs Committee that supports Columbus Air Force Base.

"We were the only people there until a woman drove up and asked if we'd gotten the notice. She didn't seem too concerned either. Sandy went on down to the beach and I spent about five minutes on my phone doing some research. I found out pretty quickly that it was a false alarm," Robinson recalled.

"But I was about to text one of my military friends who would have been in the know to find out," he added.

"We really weren't too worried. If it was our time, it was our time. And what better place to be? Even for 30 seconds we didn't really stress out. We are both pretty secure in our faith that if it was time, it was time," he continued.

Once they finished their day at the beach and got back to their hotel, they learned of the near hysteria that struck some areas as tourists and residents alike reacted to the warning, which came at a time when North Korea was saber-rattling about its nuclear capabilities and intentions.

While not being too concerned, Robinson, like many other Americans, assumed the U.S. has the technology and weaponry to intercept missiles. He also wondered whether North Korea really has the missile capabilities.

"Certainly we do, but you just don't know," Robinson said of the nation's air defense systems.

The fake missile alert has prompted those questions among millions of Americans, not to mention changes to Hawaii's emergency preparedness system. But for Lynn and Sandy Robinson, "It's certainly a vacation we won't forget."