Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ortiz: False Missile Alert Sends Wong into Panic

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Ortiz: False Missile Alert Sends Wong into Panic

Article excerpt

They're among the strongest and the fastest, stars in an exclusive fraternity that garners affection from complete strangers. Around these parts, there is no greater job title than St. Louis Cardinal. Thousands of fans made pilgrimages from throughout the Midwest to the Hyatt Regency on Saturday to see their beloved Redbirds.

It was another wonderful start to the Cardinals' three-day Winter Warm-Up, where optimism reigned as fans chased autographs and smiles from their favorite ballplayers. Kolten Wong exemplified the club's excitement as he gushed about the addition of slugger Marcell Ozuna and the return of beloved infield coach Jose Oquendo.

Finally considered the Cardinals' undisputed second baseman, Wong has plenty of reason to be optimistic heading into the 2018 season. But the Hawaii native received a horrible reminder early Saturday just how fragile life is when he spent a frantic 20 minutes worrying about his family's safety back home.

With an empty sense of helplessness back in St. Louis, Wong tried to reach his family Saturday morning. He frantically placed a call to his brother and then his father as his wife called his sister in the immediate minutes after a missile alert had been sent to Hawaiians.

Even in these tumultuous times, we tend to forget how fragile life is.

We all received a scary reminder Saturday when people in Hawaii received an emergency alert at 8:07 a.m. local time, 12:07 p.m. (CST), warning of a ballistic missile threat on the island.

"BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL."

All caps, all very frightening, whether you're from Hawaii, as Wong is, or from the mainland.

"I was freaking out," Wong said. "It's something you don't know what to do. A missile is basically coming to take out Hawaii. From what I've read and what I know about it, it takes 15 minutes for a missile to get from Korea to Hawaii.

"It's insane to be put in this situation and to think, 'This could be the end.' Just crazy time."

Fortunately, the alert turned out to be a false alarm.

Unfortunately, though, the alert created a wave of panic throughout the island. It took 20 minutes before Hawaiians were informed that there actually was no missile threat.

Those 20 minutes between alerts seemed like a lifetime for people in Hawaii and for their friends and family. Wong, 27, was frozen for a bit after finding out about the missile alert via social media.

"Honestly, I was in shock at first trying to figure out who to call, what to call," he said. "Called my brother, he didn't answer. He was frantically packing at the time. I called my dad. He just woke up because of the phone. It was a crazy situation."

One day you're planning for the upcoming season, the next you're just praying that your family survives.

Wong and his younger brother, Kean, are among two of the best athletes who have recently come out of Hawaii, an island that also produced Tua Tagovailoa, the freshman quarterback who just led the University of Alabama to the national football championship, and 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. …

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