On Saturday, the customer rush was on at Guam’s Home Depot.
The line had already snaked into the paint department by the time general manager Bobby Salcido opened an additional register. People shuffled over, carting batteries, flashlights and bottled water.
Although, as it turns out, Yigo resident Darrell Gose really just needed a new flashlight. And Yigo resident Jesse Cruz, 39, was restocking on bottled water for everyday use around the house.
In fact, despite slightly lighter foot traffic during the week, Saturday was “a regular, everyday Saturday,” Salcido said.
It wasn’t quite what most people would expect, considering the week Guam has had.
Since the escalation of threats between the United States and North Korea, the island has been in the international spotlight.
North Korea said it had a plan to launch missiles toward Guam in response to what it considers aggressive rhetoric from the United States.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump said via Twitter on Friday that military solutions were “locked and loaded.”
On Saturday morning, Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo received calls of assurance from White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly and President Trump.
In a subsequent video message, Calvo said that although this is not the first time Guam has been threatened, “knowing we have a president and a White House that is watching out for us, gives me great comfort.”
The island’s leaders may have been comforted, but alarm on social media has quickly boosted #Guam in the media.
Amid it all — an outrageously concerned Twitterverse, a fact sheet issued by Guam Homeland Security advising residents what to do in case of a missile attack, media hand-wringing over what might be said or tweeted next — island residents remained calm.
Guam went fishing. The University of Guam Kid’s Fishing Derby culminated its two-week program with a strong turnout of about 40 registered children, their families, and a handful of unregistered participants who just wanted to join in the fun at Asan Beach Park.
Guam went spearfishing too, and Guam hauled in impressive catches.
Guam went to football practice, and went to the beaches and to the malls, where parking lots were predictably packed on the sunny weekend.
And Guam went shopping — but not for what you might expect.
Home Depot loss prevention manager Andrew Guilliot noticed a few customers stocking up on bottled water, batteries and portable fans — in other words, “typical things you would see people buy when they’re prepping for typhoons.”
“I don’t know if that has to do with recent developments, or if people are just shopping,” Guilliot added. “Nothing beyond basic disaster prep, as far as we’ve seen in stores.”
But even that is iffy, Salcido said.
“Typically you’d expect to see water, generators, batteries, tarps and plastic go out, but we’re pretty well stocked and I haven’t seen any spikes in those categories as of yet,” Salcido said.
So far, then, Guam residents aren’t flooding the aisles so much as trickling into them. That goes for the airplane aisles as well. Despite urging from well-meaning friends and relatives off-island, Guam is staying put. A check of online booking services showed seats are still available on departing flights this week.
Some residents do have disaster prepping on the brain. Ordot resident David Lessard, 55, went to Cost-U-Less on Saturday interested in “looking into” the idea.
“I’ve been reading articles a lot lately, and I’m kind of concerned that people are making threats and North Korea’s got to save face. So either they’re making these threats and they’ve got to back them up, or they’re going to have to turn around and not back them up. Either way, they’re going to lose face,” Lessard said.
Lessard lived through the Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption in the Philippines in 1991, and he said he’s been through a lot of other catastrophic events. He said “this is probably just another one of those speed bumps in the road.”
“I’ve got a lot of friends calling from the states and Philippines and Japan. They’re all saying ‘Dave, you better stock up, we’re real worried about you and all our prayers are with you,'” Lessard said. “So we’re looking into getting some canned goods, bottled water. But it’s not a real bad feeling about it.”
Malojloj resident Roger Hostetler, 62, is concerned that the leaders of North Korea and the United States are both “kind of unstable, and the remarks that they’re making to each other may escalate the situation.”
But he’s not worried enough to start prepping.
“We’re on an island. Where are we going to go? What are we going to do? If they hit us, I’d rather be the first to go than one to linger, and all hell’s going to break out if they do fire a missile, I can guarantee you that,” Hostetler said.
Hostetler, a retired Navy civil service worker, has faith in the THAAD anti-missile system and the combined Japan-U.S. military forces.
“I just hope China and Russia don’t get involved on the other side,” he said.
For many Guam residents, however, the explosive threats are just more of the same.
Dededo resident Vicente Bautista, 62, said he heard similar threats in 1977 when he was an Army infantryman stationed near the Demilitarized Zone.
“They always had a missile aiming to Guam ever since,” Bautista said.
Bautista believes that North Korea wants to show off, but doesn’t have the technology to back up the threats. He’s not prepping, either.
“I don’t believe that he’s going to fight the whole world. I doubt they’re going to start something to fire the missile here to Guam,” Bautista said. “I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.”
Dededo resident Mike Soderquist, 44, isn’t intimidated either. Having lived in South Korea for about four years, Soderquist said, this is nothing new.
“We get that kind of rhetoric all the time from North Korea. For me, it’s just a bunch of rah-rah-rah,” he said.
The island seems, in general, to agree with the first line of a simple statement issued on Friday by the Guam Chamber of Commerce: “It is business as usual on Guam.”
At the very least, it was for Soderquist, who was out shopping Saturday, but not for emergency provisions.
“I’m just doing some regular shopping,” Soderquist said. “I’m actually going to a barbecue later.”