“The panic, the stress people felt, all the hurt and pain. I felt that myself,” said the man, who was not named or shown fully during the interview that aired on NBC’s “Nightly News with Lester Holt.”
The man was fired from his job at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency earlier this week. The agency’s top official, Vern T. Miyagi, resigned.
The unnamed former state employee told NBC that he has received death threats.
The man repeated claims that officials in Hawaii released: that the worker heard “this is not a drill” at some point during a training exercise and assumed that the threat of an incoming missile was real.
The incident occurred when a supervisor decided to give the arriving day-shift workers a spontaneous drill, according to a Federal Communications Commission report. The supervisor posed as a military official and played a message that warned workers of a fake threat that included the phrase “exercise,” three times, as well as “this is not a drill,” language that would be used during a real alert.
Officials also said the worker had not heard a portion of the exercise that repeatedly declared it was an “exercise.”
“I was 100 percent sure that it was the right decision, that it was real,” the man said. “I’m really not to blame in this. It was a system failure, and I did what I was trained to do.”
The missile alert went out reading, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL,” which caused panic and fear on the archipelagic state. Officials did not withdraw the alert for an agonizing 38 minutes.
An investigation released by the state described the employee as having a poor work history; other members of the emergency management agency’s staff said that they did not feel comfortable with his work.
Holt asked the man, who was shown from the neck down and wearing a Hawaiian shirt, whether he would do anything differently if he could go back.
“I can’t say I would do anything differently based on what I saw and heard,” the man said.
“There really wasn’t anything else to say,” the man said, according to the Associated Press.
The man added that the incident — and ensuing stress and death threats — has led to trouble sleeping and eating.
“It’s been hell for me the last couple weeks,” he told the AP.
Mark Berman, Brian Fung and Amy B Wang contributed to this report.