On the button

The operation was in full swing when Meli (we call her Bishop Meli) Watanuki burst through the church entrance and told us that an armed missile was on its way to Hawaii. Not surprisingly no one in the church panicked but rather continued taking down the Christmas decorations. Meantime, I hurried across the lawn to my residence. 

No, I did not run, as my sprinting days are over — except when I get the call to “water the flowers.” I hit the button for the television, scrolled down the channels to channel four and quickly learned that someone had pushed the wrong button and so put our islands into a frenzy. It had been a false alarm.

Buttons have taken a much elevated status since my younger days. I remember the days when a button was used to keep one’s shirt modestly closed for him or for her. A button was also quite necessary, in conjunction with a pair of galluses (suspenders), to keep one’s pants from falling down. Somewhere along the line came engines and we got a sense of power when we pushed the button to start the motor. 

Then we began to wear buttons to promote a candidate for public office or to show allegiance to our favorite teams (Go Patriots). And now we have one country’s leader saying, “I’ve got an atomic button on my desk,” and another country’s leader in response saying, “My button is bigger than yours.” We wish that they would both button their lips. We wish that all alarms would be false.

Here on Kalaupapa, since I arrived five years, six months and 19 days ago, we have had two valid alarms, one a late evening alarm for a small tsunami and the other for the fire which destroyed our state kitchen. Then recently we had a false alarm when our community alarm siren “pushed” its own button. When our siren goes off, our place of assembly is at the mouth of the Waihanau Valley across from the trail to the dormant crater, Kauhako. There we receive our further instructions and there we periodically gather for drills in preparation for a catastrophic event. There we are encouraged to respond on the button. 


Anchor columnist Father Killilea is pastor of St. Francis Parish in Kalaupapa, Hawaii.

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