A Beatrice mother was left frightened and confused after a ballistic missile threat was sent to cellphones across Hawaii on Saturday morning.
Kathy Russell of Beatrice received a call from her son Phil, who moved to Hilo, Hawaii, nine years ago. He'd received an alert at 8:10 a.m. that said: "BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL."
Phil had a stockpile of food and water, prepared for any emergency. Saturday, he filled a few more containers with water, boarded up his windows and called his mom in Nebraska.
"There's not much you can do. There's nowhere to go. You can just stay inside," he said by telephone Saturday afternoon.
Hawaiian residents generally know that after an alert is issued, they have about 15 to 20 minutes before a missile from North Korea would make contact with the islands, Phil said.
He and his mom stayed on the phone, waiting for an update.
"You can't panic, because it doesn't do anybody any good and he probably had so many thoughts running through his mind already," Kathy said.
In Beatrice, she flipped through TV channels for updates, and there weren't any at first.
The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency tweeted about 10 minutes after the initial alert that there was no threat, but it didn't reach people who aren't on Twitter. It was nearly 40 minutes after the first warning before a "revised" alert appeared on cellphones.
This time, it was an assurance that the first alert was a false alarm. Officials said the error occurred when someone hit the wrong button.
Former Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Russ Reno was visiting friends in the islands when his wife Julie received the alert.
He texted family members in Nebraska, telling them what was happening and letting them know that he loved them.
“You never know,” Reno said. He was thinking, “This is it. This is it. They were really long minutes.”
Reno and his wife were relieved once they learned it was a false alarm. They went out to breakfast with friends and carried on with their day.
"I had faith that the government was prepared for something like this to happen," Reno said. "But I was concerned."
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai tweeted that the agency will be conducting a full investigation into the false alarm.
"It's ridiculous that one person could press one button and put the entire state in panic," Phil Russell said.
After the confusion, panic and anger subsided, Russell said he and his friends drank wine and joked about all the babies there are going to be on the island in nine months.
Just as the brick restoration on Second Street in front of the Gage County Historical Museum ended, but the museum still has bricks on the mind.
Until March 1, the Gage County Historical Society will be selling personalized bricks to pave the walkway in front of the museum to help offset the cost of the restoration work.
For $100, donors can get a personalized four by eight inch brick, made by the Endicott Clay Products, with three lines that can be personalized with 16 letters each. They’ve sold 20 so far, said Marilyn Coffin, the secretary and treasurer of the Gage County Historical Society, and they’re hoping people will immortalize their families in a lasting piece of Gage County history.
They’ll be set in the path that leads to the museum that goes past the miniature Statue of Liberty—originally placed in Charles Park by the Beatrice Boy Scouts in 1951—and the 2007 time capsule that will be opened on Beatrice’s 200th birthday in 2057.
She said she hopes people will commemorate their businesses, friends, loved ones, historic residents of Gage County, but really it can be almost anything they’d like.
“You can be very creative as to what your intention is,” she said. “You're on historic ground there with the Burlington Northern Railroad station there.”
The museum started a general fundraising drive in June of last year to pay for the brick improvements, but in September, Gage County Historical Society director Lesa Arterburn had the idea to sell bricks.
There are as many bricks available for sale as there are bricks on the walkway, Coffin said. So far they’ve sold 20 of them, but they’re trying to bring that number up to help pay for the brickwork restoration at the museum.
“Through the brick project, we got a Gage County tourism grant to offset half the cost of the brick project and that was approximately $26,000 and our total project was approximately $52,000,” said Leigh Coffin, Gage County Historical Society board member. “That means the other $26,000 has to come from society.”
The board has had other fundraisers to work to bring up the total, but were mostly based on individual donations. The brick fundraiser adds a bit of a personal touch, the Coffins said, and their daughter even purchased one for them for Christmas.
Nothing is set in stone yet, Marilyn said, but they’ll be discussing a brick placement ceremony at the next board meeting. The group expects the bricks to be ready for placement in spring.
Order forms for the bricks can be obtained at Pinnacle Bank, the Beatrice Chamber of Commerce and at the Gage County Historical Museum once it reopens on February 1. Bricks can also be ordered with an online form at the museum’s website or by calling the Gage County Historical Society at (402) 228-1679.
There’s a bright year ahead for the museum, Marilyn Coffin said, and, just last week they received delivery of one of the upcoming exhibits, a life ring from the World War II ship, the SS Beatrice Victory.
Built in the Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, California, the SS Beatrice Victory was 455 feet long, 62 feet wide and armed with eight machine guns and a five inch deck gun—impressive artillery for a cargo ship.
The Beatrice Victory was built in just 60 days between October 27, 1944 and December 27 the same year. There’s not much information available on where the ship wound up, but the museum will have more of her history when the display opens.
In May, the museum is planning on opening an exhibit on Company C of the Nebraska National Guard which, Leigh Coffin said, is in the final stages. The Gage County Historical Society is working with the Nebraska National Guard Museum in Seward and they’re hoping to have an opening event that coincides with Homestead Days.
Then, in March, the Gage County Classic Film Institute is holding a three-day retrospective of the work of Beatrice native Gene Coon. Coon was a TV writer for shows like “Bonanza," “Wagon Train," “Maverick” and “Dragnet," but is probably best known for his work on the original “Star Trek” series.
David Gerrold, who worked with Coon on “Star Trek” will be speaking at the Beatrice Public Library on March 2. Gerrold wrote one of “Star Trek’s” most famous episodes, “The Trouble with Tribbles”, which will be screened that night at the free event.
“Our idea is to bring the museum into the spotlight more than it has been,” Marilyn Coffin said. “People know it's there, but we need to make people aware of the efforts going in to constantly evolve and be creative.”
In Gage County there are about 2,730 people struggling to put enough food on the table for themselves and their children.
That’s about 12.5 percent of the total population. On top of that, about 42 percent of people live below the threshold of 130 percent of the poverty line that would make them eligible for food stamps.
Food insecurity is a large problem in Gage County and in Beatrice, and Public Health Solutions is looking to get public input on a new program that aims to keep fridges full of healthy food.
On Jan. 18, Public Health Solutions, in partnership with Gage County Extension, will hold a public meeting at the Public Health Solutions office at 2 p.m. at 5109 W. Scott St. to discuss the future implementation of the Double Up Food Bucks program in Gage County.
The Double Up Food Bucks program—which is currently operational in Lincoln—works like this: when people who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or EBT cards purchase fresh fruits or vegetables from partner locations, they receive a dollar per each dollar spent to use on another purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables, up to $20 a day. The program’s initial partners are planned to be the Beatrice Farmers Market and Heartland Foods in Beatrice.
Public Health Solutions hopes the project is up and running by this spring, just in time for the Beatrice Farmers Market, said Sharon Leners, a nurse with PHS. Leners said the group expects the effect on the community to be threefold.
“You're increasing your local economy because people will be purchasing more local fresh fruits and vegetables by getting that money on the card,” she said. “Then, you're going to have better access, because more food's going to be grown, hopefully, and they'll be able to supply it better. Also, you’re creating a healthier community and environment by encouraging those fresh fruits and vegetables.”
The Lincoln program works in association with Leon’s Gourmet Grocer as well as the three farmers markets in town. People enrolled in the program in Beatrice would be able to use their Double Up Food Bucks at the Lincoln locations as well, she said.
The Beatrice and Gage County is a bit of a pilot market for the program, Leners said, and they want to start small before branching out into other counties.
“We would like to be able to do this in all of our counties at some time,” she said. “Beatrice has the largest farmers market in our district right now, so that's why we started with Beatrice Farmers Market.”
Thursday’s community assessment will be led by a UNL Extension educator, Leners said, who will be on hand to answer questions about the Double Up Food Bucks program.
“We would like all different types of people from the community to come,” she said. “We're looking for people in different age groups, different ethnicities, different income levels, different education levels. We're just looking for a diverse population of people to attend the community meeting.”
Snacks will be provided at the meeting, Leners said, and they’ll be mostly healthy fruits and vegetables.
A Beatrice man shot trying to flee law enforcement a week ago in a stolen SUV now faces three new felony charges.
The Lancaster County Attorney's office charged Thomas D. Sailors, 25, with third-degree assault on an officer, theft by unlawful taking and operating a motor vehicle to avoid arrest.
At a hearing Thursday, Lancaster County Court Judge John Freudenberg set Sailors' bond at $250,000 and appointed the Public Defender's office to represent him.
In an affidavit for Sailors' arrest, Lincoln police said two LPD officers in a marked cruiser and a deputy U.S. Marshal trying to arrest him in a parking lot at 16th and Prospect streets Jan. 5 on a felony drug warrant had tried to pin in the stolen GMC Yukon Denali he was driving.
Police said Sailors backed into the cruiser, pushing an open door into an officer, who had to jump back in the cruiser to avoid being run over.
Sailors hit two other parked cars and an apartment building and was shot by a deputy U.S. Marshal before he got away, according to court records. He later showed up at a Lincoln hospital, where he was treated for gunshot wounds.