MARIETTA - On Friday, Deneene Winters plans to be caring for the horses at her barn in Marietta, as she does most days, then visiting with her son and daughter-in-law who are coming in from Virginia.
"We're not going to be boarding up the windows or waiting for the zombie apocalypse or anything like that," she said.
Winters is aware of the doomsday predictions surrounding the 21st day of December this year. That date (or possibly Dec. 23, according to some scholars) has been linked to the end of the Mayan "long count" calendar and various catastrophic scenarios, including a previously unknown planet colliding with our own, a disastrous alignment of known planets, a meteor strike, giant solar storms and a shifting of the Earth's magnetic poles.
Photo by Evan Bevins
Marietta Baptist Temple Pastor Don Teubert, left, Marietta Bible College student William Payne and members of Marietta Baptist Temple stand at Second and Putnam streets in Marietta holding signs pointing people to Jesus Christ.
But scientists have debunked these and other theories of how Armageddon might come this week. NASA has even put up a Q&A page on its website and released a video addressing the claims.
Winters, 50, of Vienna, and other valley residents aren't worried.
"I have no feelings that the world is going to end this month," she said.
Twelve years ago, Marietta resident Hugh McConkey, 78, took some precautions like storing extra canned food, bottled water and military MREs (meals ready to eat), just in case predictions that technology would fail en masse as a result of computers registering the year 2000 as 1900 came true.
"That was a bust," he said recently.
McConkey said he learned his lesson and is making no contingency plans for what he expects to be just another Friday.
"God will decide when the world ends, not the Mayans," he said.
Pastor Don Teubert of Marietta Baptist Temple believes the world will end, probably sooner than later, with the return of Jesus Christ. But he's confident it won't happen Friday.
"The Bible says no man knoweth the day or the hour," he said.
It is that return - not theories, predictions or fears about Dec. 21 - that led Teubert and members of the church to stand on the corner of Second and Putnam streets earlier this month, bearing signs with messages about believing and accepting the salvation of Christ, something they do regularly.
"The main thing is, be ready," Teubert said. "The Bible teaches us we need to be doing the will of God each day, and if we are, He won't come and catch us ... unawares."
The Rev. Byron Bufkin, pastor of Newport United Methodist Church, said no one in his congregation has expressed worry about Dec. 21, but he has mentioned it occasionally as a way of feeling out whether people want to discuss the topic. If the subject is broached, it's generally in jest, although Bufkin said he wouldn't make light of the situation around someone who actually had concerns about it.
The church isn't altering its plans for the 21st.
"We're planning on going Christmas caroling that night," Bufkin said.
Fred O'Neill, a Marietta resident and retired history teacher who has visited Mayan structures in Mexico's Yucatan peninsula, said the Maya weren't predicting the end of the world at all, at least not as our society thinks of it.
"To the Maya, as well as a lot of the (native) people around the world, time goes in a circle," he said, noting Judeo-Christian and Muslim cultures see time in a linear fashion. "The Maya believed that everything was renewed."
O'Neill pointed to an article in the November/December issue of Archaeology, a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America, that describes the three types of calendars the Maya used - one that covers a 260-day cycle thought to be based on the duration of a human pregnancy, another that is close to a solar year and the long count. The article says only two Maya monuments make reference to the end date of the long count, and one includes a reference to a deity ascending to power on that day.
O'Neill said when he visited, he found people living in the area aren't viewing the upcoming date in the same apocalyptic context as folks in other parts of the world.
"I talked to a number of people who are descendants of the Maya that are still around," he said. "They think a lot of what we believe is pretty crazy."
The Associated Press contributed.