Point Sur Lighthouse, Photo by Marilyn Turk

Point Sur Lighthouse, Photo by Marilyn Turk


February 12, 1935


Lighthouse Keeper Thomas Henderson was wiping the last prism of the Point Sur lens when the sky went dark. Although it was approaching nightfall, the sudden darkness made him glance over his shoulder, thinking a storm cloud had hidden the sun.

But there was no cloud. Instead a massive shape obscured the sun, a shape he recognized as the USS Macon, the largest airship the United States had ever built. Henderson watched in awe as the helium-filled, rigid dirigible, longer than two football fields, moved through the sky just beyond the California coastline.

The Macon was the pride of the US Navy, a flying aircraft carrier built to serve as a scout for its fleet with reconnaissance fighter bi-planes that could be launched and recovered in the air. An amazing sight to behold, Keeper Henderson stood mesmerized from his perch in the lighthouse tower.

USS Macon

USS Macon

Wind began to pick up as a squall moved in from the open water. The airship started to bobble in the turbulence, then Henderson saw the ship’s fin disintegrate. As he watched, the front part of the ship rose up as a large hole appeared in the hull. Then as the ship lost control, it slowly drifted down to the sea.

Horrified, Henderson struggled with concern for the people aboard and his inability to reach them. There was nothing he could do but watch.

Long moments passed before Navy ships appeared at the scene, working by searchlights into the night to retrieve the survivors. Thankfully, the ships had been close enough to get there quickly.

Keeper Henderson had witnessed the shipwreck of the last rigid airship the United States would ever build.

Have you ever watched something happen and felt helpless to do anything about it? Perhaps the situation is beyond your control, too big to handle. Perhaps you see a problem somewhere in the world that you would like to do something about, but you can’t. Is there nothing you can do?

When Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray, he told his disciples several times to watch and pray, not just to watch, but to pray also. He knew what was going to happen, but He still wanted them to pray. Many times in the Bible, we are told to watch – to be aware of what’s going on in the world around us. But there is something more we can do and should do. We can pray. Next time you see something you think you can’t do anything about, pray, that is, talk to God about it, ask Him to help. If prayer is important enough for Jesus to do, it’s important for us.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2