OAKLAND, Calif. —They spent months warning the world of the apocalypse, some giving away earthly belongings or draining their savings accounts. And so they waited, vigilantly, on Saturday for the appointed hour to arrive.
When 6 p.m. came and went at various spots around the globe, including the East Coast of the United States, and no extraordinary cataclysm occurred, Keith Bauer — who hopped in his minivan in Maryland and drove his family 3,000 miles to California for the rapture — took it in stride.
"I had some skepticism but I was trying to push the skepticism away because I believe in God," he said outside the gated Oakland headquarters of Family Radio International, whose founder, Harold Camping, has been broadcasting the apocalyptic prediction for years. "I was hoping for it because I think heaven would be a lot better than this Earth."
But he added, "It's God who leads you, not Harold Camping."
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Bauer, a tractor-trailer driver, began the trip west last week, figuring that if he "worked last week, I wouldn't have gotten paid anyway, if the rapture did happen." Bauer planned to start the cross-country drive back home today with his wife, young son and another relative.
The May 21 doomsday message was sent far and wide via broadcasts and websites by Camping, an 89-year-old retired civil engineer who has built a multimillion-dollar Christian media empire that publicizes his apocalyptic prediction. According to 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 that the exact timing was never written in stone.
In New York's Times Square, Robert Fitzpatrick, of Staten Island, said he was surprised when 6 p.m. 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. "I don't understand it. I don't know. I don't understand what happened.
"Obviously, I haven't understood it correctly because we're still here," he said.
Many followers said that though the sun rose Saturday without the earthquakes, plagues and other calamities, the delay was a further test from God to persevere in their faith.