Believers’ reactions mixed to unfulfilled doomsday prophecy

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The hour of the apocalypse came quietly and went the same way, leaving those who believed that Saturday evening would mark the world’s end confused, or more faithful, or just philosophical.

Believers spent months warning the world of the pending cataclysm. Some gave away earthly belongings. Others took long journeys to be with loved ones. And there were those who drained their savings accounts.

All were responding to the May 21 doomsday message by Harold Camping, an 89-year-old retired civil engineer who has built a multimillion-dollar Christian media empire that publicizes his apocalyptic prediction.

“I had some skepticism, but I was trying to push the skepticism away because I believe in God,” said Keith Bauer, who hopped in his minivan in Maryland and drove his family 3,000 miles to California for the Rapture.

He started his day in the bright morning sun outside Mr. Camping’s gated Oakland headquarters of Family Radio International.

“I was hoping for it because I think heaven would be a lot better than this earth,” said Mr. Bauer, a tractor-trailer driver who began the voyage west last week, figuring that if he “worked last week, I wouldn’t have gotten paid anyway if the Rapture did happen.”

According to Mr. Camping, the destruction was likely to have begun its worldwide march as it became 6 p.m. in the various time zones, although some believers said Saturday the exact timing was never written in stone.

Mr. Camping projected the apocalyptic prediction for years far and wide via broadcasts and websites.

In New York’s Times Square, Robert Fitzpatrick of Staten Island said he was surprised when the six o’clock hour simply came and went. He had spent his own money to put up advertising about the end of the world.

“I can’t tell you what I feel right now,” he said, surrounded by tourists. “Obviously, I haven’t understood it correctly because we’re still here.”

Many followers said the delay was a further test from God to persevere in their faith.

“It’s still May 21, and God’s going to bring it,” said Family Radio’s special projects coordinator Michael Garcia, who spent Saturday morning praying and drinking two last cups of coffee with his wife at home in Alameda. “When you say something and it doesn’t happen, your pride is what’s hurt. But who needs pride? God said he resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.”

The Internet was alive with discussion, humorous or not, about the end of the world and its apparent failure to occur on cue. Many tweets declared Mr. Camping’s prediction a dud or shared, tongue in cheek, their relief at not having to do weekend chores or take a shower.

The top trends on Twitter at midday included, at No. 1, “endofworldconfessions,” followed by “myraptureplaylist.”

As 6 p.m. approached in California, some 100 people gathered outside Family Radio International headquarters, although it appeared none of the believers of the prophecy were among them. Mr. Camping’s radio stations, TV channels, satellite broadcasts and website are controlled from a modest building sandwiched between an auto shop and a palm reader’s business.

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