How True Believers Dealt With the Failed Apocalypse

Saturday, May 21 was supposed to be the start of end of the world, according to the calculations of radio host Harold Camping. It wasn't. So what happens on May 22?

According Camping's calculations, promoted by a multimillion dollar advertising campaign (most of that money from donations to his nonprofit, Family Radio), the end was supposed to start at 6 p.m. (it was unclear which time zone), at which point a great earthquake would come. The complete destruction of Earth on October 21, following months of famine, disaster and death.

But May 21 came and went around the world, and most of us woke up on May 22 no worse for the wear. And the people who sold their homes or spent their life savings spreading Camping's prophecy?

Reuters was with Robert Fitzpatrick, a retired MTA worker who spent "over $140,000 of his savings on subway posters and outdoor advertisements," at 6 p.m. exactly:

As he stood in Times Square in New York surrounded by onlookers, Fitzpatrick, 60, carried a Bible and handed out leaflets as he waited for Judgment Day to begin. [...]

When the hour came and went, he said: "I do not understand why ...," as his speech broke off and he looked at his watch.

"I do not understand why nothing has happened."

(To be fair to Fitzpatrick, spending any time in Times Square usually leads to disappointment that the apocalypse is not forthcoming.)

Keith Bauer, a trucker who packed his family into their minivan and drove across the country from Maryland, told the Associated Press that he was more disappointed than mad:

"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 predicting the apocalypse 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."

Bauer, a truck driver, began the journey west last week, figuring that if he "worked last week, I wouldn't have gotten paid anyway, if the Rapture did happen." Now, having seen the nonprofit ministry's base of operations, Bauer planned to take a day trip to the Pacific Ocean and then start the cross-country drive back home today with his wife, young son and another relative.

"Worst-case scenario for me, I got to see the country," Bauer told the Los Angeles Times. "If I should be angry at anybody, it should be me." (This is a pretty healthy way to think about it, considering.)

And what about Camping himself? He hasn't made any public appearances. But the Los Angeles Times talked to his daughter, Sue Espinoza:

On Saturday morning, Espinoza, 60, received a phone call from her father, Harold Camping, the 89-year-old Oakland preacher who has spent some $100 million - and countless hours on his radio and TV show - announcing May 21 as Judgment Day. "He just said, 'I'm a little bewildered that it didn't happen, but it's still May 21 [in the United States],'" Espinoza said, standing in the doorway of her Alameda home. "It's going to be May 21 from now until midnight."

We can't imagine he's any less bewildered now.

[image, from demonstrations in front of the Family Radio offices yesterday, via AP]