This file photo from the Daily Sun shows the West Side Baptist Church of Beatrice, Nebraska after a natural gas explosion leveled the building at 7:27pm, Wednesday, March 1, 1950. The explosion shattered windows of neighboring houses, knocked the local radio station off the air and caused power outages throughout the town.
Unfortunately, the 15 members of the church had choir had practice that Wednesday evening, as they did every Wednesday, with members showing up around 7:15pm, and always ready to sing by 7:25pm. Fortunately, what happened this evening was nothing short of miraculous:
Pianist Marilyn Paul had planned on arriving 30 minutes early but fell asleep after dinner, finally awakening around 7:15 and causing her to be late.
Mrs. F.E. Paul was choir director, as well as Marilyn's mother. She was late due to her daughter's slumber.
Herbert Kipf would normally have been ahead of time but wanted to finish an important letter he had kept putting off, causing him to be late. How he chose this night and time to be important, he later stated "I can't think why".
High school sophomore Ladona Vandergrift was stuck on a geometry problem and was compelled to finish it, making her unusually late for practice.
Sisters Sadie and Royena Estes were ready to go, but their car had been having problems throughout the day and would not start when it was time to leave. Interestingly, they called Ladona Vandergrift for a backup ride, but math was a priority, forcing the sisters to wait.
Joyce Black felt "just plain lazy" and stayed warm in her home until the last minute, preparing to leave when the explosion occurred.
High school friends Dorothy Wood and Lucille Jones normally went to choir practice together. This evening Lucille was listening to a radio program slotted for 7:00 to 7:30 and felt she needed to hear the conclusion, causing both girls to be late.
Harvey Ahl was taking care of his two sons, as his wife was out of town. He got lost in conversation and didn't realize he was late until he looked at his watch.
Mrs. Shuster and her daughter Susan normally arrived at 7:20, but on this Wednesday she was called to her mother's home to help prepare for a missionary meeting.
Reverend Walter Klempel had gone to the church earlier to turn on the furnace and get things ready for choir practice. After dinner, around 7:10pm, he was ready to go with his wife & daughter Marilyn but they were all held up due to Marilyn staining her dress and Mrs. Klempel hurriedly ironing another to wear.
That March evening, the West Side Baptist Church exploded, and every single person that should have been there simply wasn't. No deaths. No Injuries.
Was it fate? Coincidence? Perhaps Rowena Vandegrift stated it best in a later interview, "It was an absolute miracle. It's a reminder that God watches over all of us."