'I'm having a beer before I go': Iqaluit family experiences Hawaiian missile scare

Nathan Nevin says it was 30 minutes of terror when he got a notification that a missile was on its way to Hawaii. He was on vacation with his wife and two children.

'Melina was like, 'I'm googling how to survive a nuclear attack fallout'

Nathan Nevin with his family in Hawaii. They didn't know what to do when they got a notification that a ballistic missile was incoming. (Submitted by Nathan Nevin)

Nathan Nevin and his family were preparing to switch Airbnbs when his wife's phone started making strange sounds.

"They just started going off with a ring I've never heard before," said Nevin. "It was one push notification that said 'Ballistic missile on the way.'"

Nevin is from Iqaluit, but is currently attending school in Montreal. He was on vacation in Hawaii with his wife, Melina Poirier, and children when a false emergency alert was issued around 8 a.m. The alert was sent out by state officials; it said there was an incoming ballistic missile.

At first he thought the text was fake, but when another phone received the same notification, the threat started to seem real.

"We ran outside and we could hear people yelling 'there's a bomb,'" said Nevin. Also on the vacation were his four-year-old daughter and four-month-old son.

Nevin said he started to get shaky. "It was 30 minutes of sheer terror."

But it was a calm terror, because he and his wife didn't want to scare their children.

They had no idea what to do.

Nevin is from Iqaluit, but is currently attending school in Montreal. He went with his family on vacation to Hawaii. (Submitted by Nathan Nevin)

Nevin tried to call the police, but he couldn't get through. And that made it feel like it was a real threat. 

"We just kind of waited," said Nevin. "What are you supposed to do?"

"I think I cracked open a beer. I'm like, if this is the end, I'm having a beer before I go."

About 15 minutes after he got the alert, Nevin said he saw people tweeting that there was no missile. But the push notifications were still coming through.

"Melina was like, 'I'm googling how to survive a nuclear attack fallout.'"

2 more warnings

The panic was over and Nevin was driving with his family to a beach about two hours later. But then the phone started going off with another missile warning.

His wife was sleeping beside him in the car, but rather than tell her about the warning, he just turned off the phone.

When Melina woke up, they called the police. The police told them the notifications were still going to people's phones, and it could happen again later in the day. 

He received one more notification at night, but "didn't listen to it at all."

Nevin said he was joking with his wife after the incident: "We're moving back to Nunavut; no one's going to bother us."

With files from Michael Salomonie


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.