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The end of the world is … nah, still here

Members of Calvary Bible Church of Milpitas appear at the offices of Harold Camping and Family Radio International in Oakland, Calif., to offer support to those victimized by his prediction.

Associated Press

Members of Calvary Bible Church of Milpitas appear at the offices of Harold Camping and Family Radio International in Oakland, Calif., to offer support to those victimized by his prediction.

OAKLAND, Calif. — Sue Espinoza was planted before the television, awaiting news of her father's now infamous prediction: cataclysmic earthquakes auguring the end of humanity.

God's wrath was supposed to begin in New Zealand and then race across the globe, leaving millions of bodies wherever the clock struck 6 p.m. Saturday. But the hours ticked by, and New Zealand survived. Time zone by time zone, the apocalypse fizzled.

Saturday morning, Espinoza, 60, received a phone call from her father, Harold Camping, 89, the Oakland preacher who spent $100 million — and countless hours on Family Radio International — 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, Calif., home. "It's going to be May 21 from now until midnight."

Camping himself, who has given innumerable interviews in recent months, was staying out of sight Saturday.

By late afternoon, a small crowd had gathered in front of Camping's Oakland headquarters. There were atheists blowing up balloons in human form, which were released into the sky just after 6 p.m. in a mockery of the Rapture. Someone played a CD of The End by the Doors.

But to others who put stock in Camping's prophecy, disillusionment was already profound by late morning. To them, it was clear the world and its woes would continue.

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

Bauer, a driver of a semitrailer truck who began the voyage west last week, said he was not bitter. "Worst-case scenario for me, I got to see the country," he said. "If I should be angry at anybody, it should be me."

Others had risked a lot more on Camping's prediction, quitting jobs, abandoning relationships, volunteering months of their time to spread the word.

Matt Tuter, the longtime producer of Camping's radio and television call-in show, said Saturday that he expected there to be "a lot of angry people" as reality proved Camping wrong.

Tuter said Family Radio's AM station in Sacramento had been "severely vandalized" Friday night or Saturday morning, with air-conditioning units yanked out and $25,000 worth of copper stripped from the equipment.

In New York's Times Square, Robert Fitzpatrick, who spent his own money to put up advertising about the end of the world, expressed surprise at 6 p.m. "I can't tell you what I feel right now … I don't understand it. I don't know. I don't understand what happened," he said. "Obviously, I haven't understood it correctly because we're still here."

The New Orleans Secular Humanist Association planned to hold a Left Behind balloon release and costume party rather than their usual monthly gathering to hear a speaker.

"We're nonreligious people," said Harry Greenberger, the group's president. "This sort of prophecy is really not of any concern to us."

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

Dave Nederhood, a pastor at Christian Reformed Church in Alameda, Calif., said he was concerned about those who may have given away possessions or left jobs. "This guy is not an evangelical, he's not a minister," Nederhood said. "He is self-deluded."

Camping's radio stations, TV channels, satellite broadcasts and website are in a modest building, but Family Radio International's message has been broadcast in 61 languages. He has said that his earlier apocalyptic prediction in 1994 didn't come true because of a mathematical error.

"I'm not embarrassed about it. It was just the fact that it was premature," he told the Associated Press last month. But this time, he said, "there is … no possibility that it will not happen."

Information from the Associated Press, New York Times and Los Angeles Times was used in this report.

The end of the world is … nah, still here 05/21/11 [Last modified: Saturday, May 21, 2011 11:27pm]

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