Debbie Hatt and her daughter Rachel arrived on the Big Island of Hawaii Thursday. They have been taking in the beautiful surroundings and exquisite sunsets while celebrating Rachel's recent college graduation from Clemson University. The two were sitting on the balcony Saturday morning enjoying a cup coffee when in an instant, the serenity was broken and crippling fear set in.
"My first thought was 'Okay, we're never going to survive this. This is it, this is how I'm going to die,'" said the Wake County resident.
A terrifying alert flashed on her phone. It warned there was a ballistic missile threat inbound, to seek immediate shelter, and the last line read "this is not a drill."
Hatt says from the balcony she could hear other hotel guests yelling from their rooms.
Mom and daughter grabbed some personal items and evacuated.
"We were like 'Okay this is serious, we got to go,'" she said. "We got to get in the basement. Everyone was standing there scared."
Hatt tried to call 911, but couldn't get through.
"We sat there in disbelief like this just can't be happening," she said.
Turns out, the alert was false. Officials say the message was accidently sent when someone hit the wrong button during a shift change.
Hatt is having a hard time accepting this explanation.
"We think there's more to the story that they're not releasing," Hatt added.
With a potential attack squashed, Hatt is going to try to enjoy the rest of the vacation with her daughter.
"I think we're safe. I don't think there's a threat so I think we're safe. we're just going to try to enjoy every second of it," she said.
Hawaii officials have apologized repeatedly and vowed to ensure it would never happen again.
Wake County woman vacationing in Hawaii recounts 'mistake' missile alert
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