The tiny city of Beatrice, Nebraska was the scene of a most fascinating incident for those of us who study life's synchronicities.
It was a chilly late winter evening in 1950. It would soon be time for the 7:30 choir practice at the West Side Baptist Church. The choir was in the habit of arriving early, usually by 7:20. Pastor Walter Klempel earlier had lit up the furnace in preparation.
At 7:25 p.m. it happened. An explosion inside the church blew the walls outward, bringing down the heavy roof. But oddly enough nobody was injured because the choir's habit of punctuality had been broken - all fifteen people - because of a string of seemingly at the time trivial incidents.
Life Magazine is the my primary source for this story. The details were provided by George H. Edeal in his article Why The Choir Was Late in the March 27, 1950, issue.
Reverend Klempel was detained because his daughter, Marilyn Ruth, had soiled her dress. The time it took for his wife to iron a different dress for their daughter was the time it took to avert tragedy.
Ladonna Vandergrift was a high school student working on a difficult geometry lesson. Because she stayed put and worked on her homework, she was spared.
Royena Estes had car trouble. She and her sister Sadie called Ladonna Vandergrift for a ride, but because Ladonna was running late working on her homework the trio remained safe.
Mrs. Leonard Shuster and her young daughter would normally have arrived for choir practice at 7:20, but this time they were delayed because Mrs. Shuster had stopped by her mother's house to assist her in readying for a different meeting.
Herbert Kipf was composing a letter and finishing it meant he was late. The Life story quotes him as saying "I can't think why."
Joyce Black admitted to being "just plain lazy," not wanting to leave her warm home and venture out into the cold. She lazed around long enough to put her arrival after the explosion.
Harvey Ahl was caring for his two sons whom he planned to bring along to practice. He simply lost track of time while in conversation and when he looked at his watch saw he was late.
Marilyn Paul was pianist for the choir. After eating supper she fell into a slumber. Her mother, Mrs. F. E. Paul, was the choir director. She tried unsuccessfully to awaken her daughter but was unable to do so until 7:15. It took Marilyn long enough to get herself back in order that they were late.
Neighbors Lucille Jones and Dorothy Woods were high school girls who were in the habit of going together to choir practice. Because Lucille became interested in a radio program that did not end until 7:30, and because Dorothy waited for her, they were both late and avoided the explosion.
Many of us can think of times when we would have been in harm's way had circumstances not altered our course. I believe this is common place. But it isn't common place for this to happen in a cluster the way it happened at West Side Baptist Church in 1950.
Is it possible there is a guiding hand that can either be heeded or ignored? What if Joyce Black had heeded her sense of duty rather than being "lazy"? What if Herbert Kipf had simply laid aside his letter to finish later? It wouldn't have been illogical for Ladonna Vandergrift to put aside her homework for later, perhaps allowing for a clearing of her head. Had she done so and picked up the Estes sisters they might all have been gone. What if Mrs. Paul had tried harder to awaken her daughter? What if Rev. Klempel had simply decided to go on to practice by himself. What if Dorothy had not waited for her neighbor. What if Lucille had simply turned off her program? What if Harvey Ahl simply had been more attentive.
But no, somehow everything conspired to spare the choir. They say that hindsight is always 20/20. But I wonder: can mindful living, following one's intuition, going with the flow avert catastrophe?