OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- The hour of the apocalypse came quietly and went the same way -- leaving those who believed that Saturday evening would mark the world's end confused, or more faithful, or just philosophical.
Believers had spent months warning the world of the pending cataclysm. Some had given away earthly belongings. Others took long journeys to be with loved ones. And there were those who drained their savings accounts.
All were responding to the May 21 doomsday message by Harold Camping, an 89-year-old retired civil engineer who has built a multi-million-dollar Christian media empire that publicizes his apocalyptic prediction.
"I had some skepticism but I was trying to push the skepticism away because I believe in God," said Keith Bauer -- who hopped in his minivan in Maryland and drove his family 3,000 miles to California for the Rapture.
He started his day in the bright morning sun outside the gated Camping's Oakland headquarters of Family Radio International.
"I was hoping for it because I think heaven would be a lot better than this earth," said Bauer, a tractor-trailer driver who began the voyage west last week, figuring that if he "worked last week, I wouldn't have gotten paid anyway, if the Rapture did happen."
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 the exact timing was never written in stone.
He had been projecting the apocalyptic prediction for years far and wide via broadcasts and websites.
In New York's Times Square, Robert Fitzpatrick, of Staten Island, said he was surprised when the six o'clock hour simply 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. "Obviously, I haven't understood it correctly because we're still here."
Many followers said the delay was a further test from God to persevere in their faith.
"It's still May 21 and God's going to bring it," said Family Radio's special projects coordinator Michael Garcia, who spent Saturday morning praying and drinking two last cups of coffee with his wife at home in Alameda. "When you say something and it doesn't happen, your pride is what's hurt. But who needs pride? God said he resists the proud and gives grace to the humble."
The Internet was alive with discussion, humorous or not, 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 or take a shower.
The top trends on Twitter at midday included, at No. 1, "endofworldconfessions," followed by "myraptureplaylist."
As 6 p.m. approached in California, some 100 people gathered outside Family Radio International headquarters in Oakland, although it appeared none of the believers of the prophecy were among them. Camping's radio stations, TV channels, satellite broadcasts and website are controlled from a modest building sandwiched between an auto shop and a palm reader's business.
Christian leaders from across the spectrum widely dismissed the prophecy, and members of a local church concerned followers could slip into a deep depression come Sunday were part of the crowd outside Family Radio International. They held signs declaring Camping a false prophet as motorists drove by.
"The cold, hard reality is going to hit them that they did this, and it was false and they basically emptied out everything to follow a false teacher," the Rev. Jacob Denys, of the Milpitas-based Calvary Bible Church, said earlier. "We're not all about doom and gloom. Our message is a message of salvation and of hope."
About a dozen people in a partying mood were also outside Family Radio International, creating a carnival-like atmosphere as they strolled in a variety costumes that portrayed monks, Jesus Christ and other figures.
"Am I relieved? Yeah. I've got a lot going on," Peter Erwin, a student from Oakland, said, with a hint of sarcasm. "Trying to get specific about the end of the world is crazy."
Revelers counted down the seconds before the anticipated hour, and people began dancing to music as the clock struck 6 p.m. Some released shoe-shaped helium balloons into the sky in an apparent reference to the Rapture.
Camping has preached that some 200 million people would be saved, and that those left behind would die in a series of scourges visiting Earth until the globe is consumed by a fireball on Oct. 21.
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."
As Saturday drew nearer, followers reported that donations