12:45 a.m

Dawson Church

On Oct 9, 2017, my home and the building housing my office were consumed by the Tubbs Lane wildfire. My wife, Christine, and I got out with moments to spare.

We woke up at 12:45 a.m. and saw the flames racing toward us. Running to the car, we got out just ahead of the inferno. Many of our neighbors weren’t so lucky. A few hours after we reached safety, we heard on the radio that the death toll had reached seven. I exclaimed, “It’s going to go much higher.” Reports from fire fighters later estimated that the fire traveled the length of a football field every three seconds. Forty-two people didn’t escape in time. But thousands did. Why?

In the weeks since the fire, that time of 12:45 a.m. keeps cropping up in conversations with friends and neighbors. Many of them report waking up at that same time. When asked why they woke up, they can’t explain it. After they awoke, they might have smelled smoke or seen the glow of the fire on the horizon. But what woke them up in the first place?

Many people seem to have premonitions just before disasters or be routed out of danger by unusual circumstances. Those who are supposed to be at the scene are often mysteriously absent. The New York City police department produced the first calculation of the death toll from the attacks on September 11, 2001. Their numbers were based on reasonable estimates of the number of people who should have been at their desks in the Twin Towers on a weekday morning. Their official estimate two weeks after the disaster was 6,659 dead.

But the final death toll was only 2,753. Where were the missing people? Many were evacuated successfully, but many others reported unusual circumstances that kept them away. Some had premonitions of disaster. Others had disturbing dreams that led them to alter their routines. Others were kept from their offices by seemingly random circumstances like crowded trains or family problems. Rebeka Javanshir-Wong is one of our Energy Psychology practitioners. Her husband is one of those who was absent when the planes hit. Here’s how she tells the story:

“My husband who worked at Tower 2 also had an out-of-routine day when he went to work later than usual and was on his way to the office when the planes crashed. His company had invited two of their young employees from Malaysia to come for training. They had arrived the night before; and, since it was their first time in the U.S., my husband, along with other colleagues, had taken them out to dinner and helped them settle in an apartment the company had rented for them near the Towers. Knowing that these two had a big jet lag, they all decided to start work a little later the next morning and give them time to rest.”

In my book Mind to Matter: The Astonishing Science of How Your Brain Creates Material Reality (Church, 2018), I summarize accounts of celebrities who for one reason or another were absent from the World Trade Center that fateful morning. Because their schedules are public, their movements are easy to track. Among them are these:

  • Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, was scheduled to be on the 101st floor for a charity event. She ran late and was still doing an interview in the NBC television studio at 8:46 a.m. when the first plane hit.
  • With a group of friends, actor Mark Wahlberg was due to fly on American Airlines flight 11. They changed their plans and, at the last minute, chartered their own plane.
  • Actor and producer Seth McFarlane was also booked on American Airlines flight 11. His travel agent gave him the wrong takeoff time and he arrived at the gate after it had closed.
  • Actress Julie Stoffer had a fight with her boyfriend and missed the same plane.
  • Michael Lomonaco, head chef of the restaurant at the top of the towers, Windows on the World, was heading up to his office half an hour before the first plane hit. He had a noon appointment to have his glasses fixed at the optometry store in the lobby, and he decided to go back down again to see if they could fit him in early. The half-hour delay saved his life.
  • The developer who held the lease on the World Trade Center, Larry Silverstein, had a dermatology appointment that morning. He decided to skip the appointment and go to work, but his wife persuaded him to visit the doctor instead.
  • Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe was out for a jog that he planned to end at the observation deck on the World Trade Center. He realized he’d forgotten his camera and returned to his hotel room. When he turned on his TV, he saw the North Tower on fire.
  • Corporate director Jim Pierce was due to attend a meeting on the 105th floor of the South Tower. But by the evening before, the organizers realized that there were too many people in the group to fit in the meeting room, so they switched the venue to the Millennium Hotel across the street. Pierce later learned that 11 of the 12 people who’d been in the original conference room died in the tragedy.
  • Lara Lundstrom was rollerblading down a street in lower Manhattan when she realized that the driver of a silver Mercedes SUV stopped at a light was actress Gwyneth Paltrow. Lara stopped to talk for a few minutes. This resulted in her missing her train to Tower 2 and her absence in her office on the 77th floor.

For some people, not being at the World Trade Center was due to an external problem like a missed plane or a chance meeting. For others, it was an internal signal like a dream or premonition. These subtle signals may be a relic of the sixth sense that human beings have had since the dawn of history.

A remote chain of 500 islands called the Andamans and Nicobars lies off the Bay of Bengal. The Andaman Islands are inhabited by an aboriginal tribe of hunter-gatherers called the Jarawa, who violently reject any contact with outsiders. Genetic evidence indicates that they originated in Africa over 50,000 years ago (National Geographic, 2005).

On December 26, 2004, a massive tsunami struck the coast, with the Andamans and Nicobars directly in its path. Anthropologists feared that all 250 members of the Jarawa tribe had been washed away, since they live near the beach and subsist by fishing and hunting. On one of the Nicobar islands, 1,458 people died.

However, when government helicopters arrived to render aid to the Andamans, the Jarawa fired arrows at them. Eventually, seven men emerged from the forest wearing loincloths and amulets and talked to aid workers. They said that not a single member of the tribe had died in the disaster (Lagorio, 2005). The entire tribe had moved deep into the jungle before the tsunami struck. How had they been able to predict and avoid danger?

As my wife and I have compared notes with others who survived the fire, 12:45 a.m. crops up with uncanny frequency. Many we’ve talked to lived too far from the fire zone to have smelled the smoke or seen the glow of flames on the horizon. Others in the path of the fire noticed the physical signs of danger as we did—but only after they woke up.

Intuition and energy fields may have played a role in their waking. Research shows that the electromagnetic fields of individual human beings are linked to the geomagnetic fields of the planet as a whole, and that communication is occurring within these fields. Rollin McCraty, director of research at HeartMath, says, “We’re all like little cells in the bigger Earth brain—sharing information at a subtle, unseen level that exists between all living systems, not just humans, but animals, trees, and so on” (McCraty, 2015).

Human beings are part of the web of life. Modern humans are capable of picking up on the subtle signals inherent in nature, just as the Andaman islanders did. I also believe that with practice we can hone our abilities to tune in to global natural cycles. Like any skill, the more it is practiced the stronger it becomes. Time in nature, especially in a quiet meditative state, can put us back in tune with cycles larger than our individual lives. 12:45 am is my personal daily reminder of the presence of these global rhythms.


Church, D. (2018). Mind to matter: The astonishing science of how your brain creates material reality. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House.

Lagorio, C. (2005, January 4). Ancient tribe survives tsunami. CBS News. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ancient-tribe-survives-tsunami

McCraty, R. (2015). Could the energy of our hearts change the world? Retrieved November 24, 2017, from https://goop.com/wellness/spirituality/could-the-energy-of-our-hearts-change-the-world

National Geographic. (2005, January 24). Did island tribes use ancient lore to evade tsunami? National Geographic News. Retrieved November 24, 2017, from https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/01/0125_050125_tsunami_island.html