Ads in the subways and on bus shelters have been warning for weeks that May 21 is “Judgment Day” – a prelude to the end of the world. But with just days to go, believers began mobilizing in Manhattan on Thursday in RVs and carrying signs to help spread the word.
“What we’re doing is sounding the alarm,” said Bronx native Bobby Brown, 55, a retired bus driver.
Theirs is a jarring prediction based on the Bible and proclaimed on about 1,200 billboards nationwide with a cheeky reminder to “save the date.”
The May 21 followers plan to canvass Manhattan on Friday and then spend the weekend in the Bronx and Brooklyn.
"We came to New York because it's so highly populated. The response has been great. I passed out 3,000 (pamphlets) today," said Ija McDaniel, 30, of Philadelphia.
Robert Fitzpatrick, a retired MTA employee, told the Daily News that he has pumped $140,000 into the city transit campaign because “people who have an understanding [of end times] have an obligation to warn everyone."
While the message often has been met with snubs and jeers, these followers of evangelist Harold Camping's Family Radio, a Christian broadcasting ministry in Oakland, Calif., are undaunted.
So how exactly does one prepare for apocalypse now? Some have been passing out pamphlets in the city’s subways and soliciting strangers in Times Square.
New York native Peter Bianchi, who is marketing an “end of the world” beverage called Drank, said he has friends who’ve built bunkers in preparation for another hyped-up doomsday in 2012. While he believes in an end-of-days scenario, he’s reticent to become a bunker builder.
“If it’s the end of times … I don’t know that we can change it, so I don’t see how to prepare,” he said.
“There are some who’ve quit their jobs and have enough to live on,” added Michael Garcia, head of Family Radio’s billboard campaign. “After May 21, the money is not going to be an issue.”
Many, however, have decided not to upend their lives by quitting their jobs or ignoring their bills.
“I have a business. I employ people who still need a livelihood,” said Peter Lombardi, a Jersey City contractor.
“I won’t walk out on my rent. That would be against the law of God,” added Joe Lyman, of Montclair, N.J.
Some of the more fervent May 21 believers have been dedicating these “final” weeks to traveling the country in RVs like prophetic Paul Reveres, warning people to repent and be saved.
A caravan of four RVs and a massive trailer are in the city through Sunday spreading the word.
Ken Bronstein, president of NYC Atheists, said after so many other false predictions, anyone warning about end times should be looked at skeptically.
“Theirs is a defeatist attitude,” Bronstein said.
Stuart Fischoff, senior editor of the Journal of Media Psychology, said people who look forward to a catastrophic event may feel like they “would not have a lot to lose.”
But believing in a doomsday date, as macabre as it sounds, would “adrenalize” their lives, Fischoff said. “It’s this collusion of faith that they’re dealing with that makes their life have a reason.”
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‘End Game’ will go down
Based on the Bible, Family Radio has calculated Judgment Day as May 21, 2011. According to the group, the date falls 7,000 years after the great flood of Noah’s time.
Here’s how they believe the “rapture” scenario will play out:
•On May 21, a massive earthquake will shake the Earth at 6 p.m., first in Fiji and New Zealand and then roll across the world.
•Those who believe Jesus Christ is the messiah will be judged by God to be “saved” and delivered to Heaven. Everyone else must endure the global devastation.
•The carnage will last five months – until Oct. 21, when believers say the Earth as we know it will cease to exist.
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Other 'end of world' predictions
December 21, 2012: The Mayan calendar predicts that the world will end because the calendar stops on this date. They believed that the world worked in cycles, and this one would end man kind, according to some interpretations.
Sept. 6, 1994: Family Radio president Harold Camping previously said Jesus would return and the Rapture would begin on this date. He said at the time his prediction could be wrong.
May 2, 1994: Neal Chase, of the Bahá'ís Under the Provisions of the Covenant, said that the world would come to an end; a nuclear bomb would hit New York on March 23, and the battle of Armageddon would occur on May 2.
Dec. 17, 1919: Albert Porta, a seismologist and meteorologist, predicted that the planets would form a current that would lead to the explosion of the sun and the incineration of the Earth. His reputation was destroyed.
Dec. 25, 1814: London-born Joanna Southcott, a 64-year-old virgin, said she was the vessel of Christ’s second coming. She believed she would give birth to him on Christmas. Instead, she died on the 27th.
March 25, 970 AD: Lotharingian computists believed that the alignment of Good Friday and Annunciation would bring about the end of the world because they thought that many major biblical events occurred during this alignment.