NEW YORK -- It was just under five months ago that John Ramsey was huddled in his New Jersey apartment, clasping his King James Bible alongside his family as they nervously awaited an earthquake that would usher in the Rapture and Judgment Day, followed by a five-month period of hell on earth before the world came to an end.
Ramsey, 25, was one of thousands of Americans who were left confused when the May 21 "Judgment Day," predicted by California radio preacher Harold Camping and advertised by thousands of billboard and pamphleteers nationwide, came and went without event.
Now Oct. 21, the date of the supposed end of the world, is approaching. While the demonstrations and ads predicting the event have disappeared and Camping has gone silent, the thousands of people who quit their jobs and spent their savings to spread his teachings haven't.
Do they still believe the world is about to end?
"I wouldn't say it's not possible," Ramsey, whose family The Huffington Post profiled in May, said recently. "I couldn't say no, but I couldn't say yes."
Several other followers of the end-times movement who had spoken out about their beliefs in May declined to be interviewed in the lead-up to Oct. 21.
Ramsey's story is similar to those of many people who captivated the nation in the spring by making extreme changes to their lives in accordance with their beliefs. He learned of the May 21 prediction on the radio. Disgruntled with conventional churches, he eventually quit his catering job in New York to spend his days on the streets and in caravans preaching about Judgment Day. He spent nights studying Biblical numerology and saying his last goodbyes to friends and family. His mother quit her bank teller position to join him, while his younger brother dropped out of high school to do the same. Ramsey and his wife, who were expecting a child, were torn over their faith that the end was near and an aching sadness that they would never meet their son, as they believed all memories would be erased upon death.
Today, Ramsey is a proud father of three-month old John Moses. His brother has re-enrolled in school, and his mother has her old job back. Within a few weeks of May 21, Ramsey got a new job as a district manager at luxury home goods business in Bloomfield, N.J. He rarely has time to study the Bible or crunch calculations about when the world will end anymore, and he said he has largely kept his thoughts on Oct. 21 to himself.
"Harold taught me a lot. And there's a lot to me about May 21 that's accurate. But just because I agree with somebody doesn't mean I'm right," he said.
Camping, whose Oakland, Calif.-based network of radio stations spent millions of dollars advertising the end-times and received a bounty of donations from listeners, initially said he was "flabbergasted" that nothing happened on May 21. He later said the God had brought down an invisible "spiritual judgement" upon humanity, and that the world was still scheduled to end in October.
Camping, who declined a request to be interviewed for this article, suffered a stroke in June and has not spoken at length on his signature Open Forum call-in show since. In his only public address, a recent six-minute audio statement uploaded to the Family Radio website, he said his health has improved and that he believes the end is "probably" near.
"I really am beginning to think as I restudied these matters that there's going to be no big display of any kind," said Camping, 90, in the recording. "The end is going to come very, very quietly, probably within the next month. It will happen, that is, by Oct. 21."
Though Ramsey is less clear about the future than he was five months ago, he says he does not regret the decisions he made.
"I'd much rather be wrong and make a correction, than to not believe in it and have it happen," he said.
And this time around, he doesn't plan to stay awake all night on Oct. 20.
"Whatever happens," Ramsey said, "is in God's hands."
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