We don't often get lightning and thunder in Los Angeles.
When we hear a boom, we think earthquake or explosion or plane crash.
On Sunday I was sitting in my back yard with a friend and heard a bit of rumbling. We wondered what it was, and then saw a dark storm cell approaching from the south. "Oh, it must have been thunder," we said.
A few minutes later there was a huge resounding boom.
I live a mile from the beach, and it turned out that this lightning strike had hit the water and a light pole on Venice Pier. It had killed one person in the water and stopped the heart of a surfer.
People pulled the surfer in, who turned out to be an off-duty lifeguard, and revived him. It took an hour of searching before the other person was found floating in the surf.
The one who died was Nick Fagnano, 20 years old. He had gone to 8 am Mass with his parents that morning and kept a Bible at his bedside. He had played baseball at Notre Dame High School and was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
A climatologist from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory said that in Florida, there's a 1 in 600,000 chance of being hit by lightning on the beach, but in California it's 1 in 7.5 million.
On Sunday that one was Nick Fagnano.
Random--but one always tends to ask, "Why him?" Or "Why me?"
It's interesting that the hit took out one of the only people on the beach who had been at church that morning and kept a Bible by his bed. He might have been the only one on the beach who attended a weekly Bible study with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
I don't like to think of God as orchestrating tragedies, but unlike other people, this kid was ready to meet his maker.
Jesus said that God knows when a sparrow falls to the ground (Matt. 10:29). Thus God watched and embraced Nick as lightning struck the water around him.
Psalm 139 says, "You know when I sit down and when I rise up. You discern my thoughts from far away."
Did the Creator of the universe redirect the bolt to avoid others who need more time to start talking to God?
Or did the Creator (unheard) cry out, "No, Nick, don't go into the water to rinse off that sand! Hey, everybody, get out of the water!"
We don't know--but we do know that being a follower of Jesus doesn't guarantee that bad things won't happen to you.
It just means putting your life in God's hands and trusting that all will be well.... even if the worst happens.
Los Angeles Times story about Nick:
Story about the injured off-duty lifeguard:
Story in today's paper: