On March 1, 1950, in Beatrice, Nebraska, choir practice was set at the West Side Baptist Church for 7:20 p.m., the choir was typically gathered by 7:15 p.m. An explosion occurred at 7:25 p.m. due to a gas leak. The blast leveled the church, shattered the windows of surrounding buildings, and knocked out a local radio station. However, not one of the 15 members of the choir who were usually there was present. All of them were behind schedule for entirely different and unrelated reasons.
The minister Walter Klempel, his wife, and their daughter, Marilyn Ruth, were all on their way out on time, but Marilyn Ruth spotted a stain on her clothing as they were walking out the door. Her mother pulled another garment from the closet and began ironing it. They were still at home when the church erupted.
Marilyn Paul, the pianist, had planned to arrive 30 minutes early to the church, but she took a nap after dinner and overslept. Marilyn’s mother, the choir director, attempted numerous times to wake her up. She finally woke up at 7:15 p.m. and was still getting dressed when they heard the explosion.
Lucille Jones and Dorothy Wood were two high school students who usually went to practice together. The girls were typically on time, but this particular evening, Lucille was engrossed in a radio show and stayed home until 7:30 p.m. so she could finish the presentation. Dorothy patiently awaited her arrival.
Royena and Sadie Estes, two sisters, were leaving for practice early, but their car wouldn’t start. They asked their friend, Ladona Vandergrift, who was always early for practice, to give them a lift, but Ladona, a high-school sophomore, was struggling with homework that night. She and the Estes sisters were late.
Herbert Kipf, a lathe operator, was ahead of schedule. However, the notion of a crucial unfinished letter held him back. He took a seat to complete it. When the blast happened, he was still sitting at his desk.
Mrs. Schuster and her young daughter, Susan, departed early. But she had to make a stop before heading to the church. Her mother needed help before leaving for a missionary meeting. Mrs. Schuster and young Susan went to help and were both delayed.
Harvey Ahl, a machinist, was looking after his two sons while his wife was gone that evening.
He was getting them both ready for choir practice. However, getting them organized on his own took a long time, and they were all late.
Joyce Black, a stenographer who resided across the street from the church, was “just plain lazy.” It was a bitterly chilly evening, and she was snuggled in her cozy home. She didn’t feel like going out and decided to wait until the very last second.
Following the explosion at 7:25 p.m., firemen theorized that it was caused by a gas leak. The whole town of Beatrice heard the blast that destroyed the West Side Baptist Church. The ceiling fell and the walls burst outwards, in a manner that would have killed anyone inside but nobody was there.
Whether it was a case of divine intervention or pure chance the miracle of these 15 choir members demonstrates that sometimes things happen for a reason.