It was just before the second half of last night's basketball game in Annapolis that one of the Navy players left the court, ran up into the stands and wrapped his arms around the neck of a woman seated in the fourth row.
"He's going to be all right, don't worry," he said softly to the woman, Barbara Rees. "He's going to be all right. I love you."
The moment came just a few minutes after it was announced to the Halsey Fieldhouse crowd, gathered to watch Navy play the University of Richmond's team, that the United States had begun military action against Iraq.
And with that announcement, Barbara Rees leaned on shoulder of her husband, Tom, and cried. Their son Cliff, Navy's 11th all-time leading scorer, was somewhere in the Persian Gulf.
"I just had this funny sensation all day -- it was just in the pit omy stomach that this would happen tonight," said Mrs. Rees, an Ellicott City resident.
"I thought all day that they would announce it at the ballgame, and when they did, that shocked me as much as anything she said."
The last time the Rees family heard from their son was jusbefore Christmas when he was on the ground in Saudi Arabia.
Since then there have been no letters, no phone calls -- just a lot of worries.
"We haven't heard from him, that's the worst part," Mrs. Reesaid. "I wanted this to happen -- I wanted to put an end to this whole thing, and when the deadline was over, I wanted us to just do it."
After briefly pausing, she continued. "But when it happens, ocourse, you react differently," she said. "I just hope everything is OK and that he's fine."
Patricia Fallon, whose husband is stationed in the PersiaGulf, decided yesterday that she would not spend another evening waiting.
She refused even to watch the TV news, and instead prepared a meal of Dijon chicken for her children and listened to the stereo at their Westminster home.
"I decided we were going to eat dinner and have a normal evening," said Mrs. Fallon, a kindergarten teacher in Carroll County.
It was not long, however, before she found herself tearfully hugging her daughter.
Last night, Mrs. Fallon had to explain to her four children that for their father, Staff Sgt. Edward J. Fallon III of the Maryland National Guard, the war had finally arrived.
She gathered the children together, calling her 8-year-old son out of the shower, to assure them that although the world had suddenly become uncertain, they still had one another.
Her daughter, Jennifer, wanted to hug. "We all just pulled together, sat on the couch and talked," Mrs. Fallon said. "We've pulled together as a team. I think our love for each other and for Ed will pull us through this."
Martin C. Evans
THE TERRIBLE WAIT ENDS
For Alaunda Vacovsky, the terrible waiting was over. Sitting at her parent's house in Pasadena, a soldier's wife, the 22-year-old greeted the news of the military action against Iraq with an odd sense of calm. She even felt happy for a moment.
And with that small confession, she began to cry.
"At least I know what's going to happen now. Maybe it will end now," said Mrs. Vacovsky, whose husband, Spc. Robert C. Vacovsky, is serving with a Maryland National Guard unit in Saudi Arabia. "I just hope that they will be safe. Everybody. I want my husband to come home."
Mrs. Vacovsky had been watching a TV rerun of "M*A*S*H," and had just switched channels and caught the first reference to an attack. She dismissed it.
"I really didn't think they were going to go in last night," said Mrs. Vacovsky, who has single-handedly taken over her husband's home improvement business.
But the talk of war continued, concern about Tel Aviv and whether Saddam Hussein would carry out his threat to bomb Israel, references to the Muslim world and whether Arabs would back their brother.
"Then it clicked. Iraq wouldn't attack them [Israel] until we attacked," she said.
She felt pang of sadness, then relief. "At least I could count the days until he came home," she said of her husband.
"I just don't want it to be a long war. I don't think this country can stand a long war. The protests are already beginning."
SAYING A LOT OF PRAYERS
At the Forest Diner on U.S. 40 in Ellicott City, waitress Pauline Chausse watched a television propped up on a table in the dining room and prayed for her son Michel, a Maryland National Guardsman in Saudi Arabia.
"He told me that if something happened to him and I cried, he'd come back to haunt me, so I can't cry," Mrs. Chausse said.
She and other waitresses at the restaurant wore pictures of her 26-year-old son in small yellow frames on their lapels and handed out bright yellow ribbons to customers. The ribbons were to be tied to doors and mailboxes as a show of support.
Ruth Papa, another waitress, said that she had watched Michel grow up -- he had been coming to the restaurant to visit his mother since he was a little boy. Over 50 people came to say goodbye to him before he left for Saudi Arabia, Mrs. Papa said.
Mrs. Chausse said her son, a sergeant with the 290th Military Police Company of Towson, is a graduate of Centennial High School in Columbia and of Towson State University.
"We're all saying a lot of prayers for these kids," Mrs. Papa said.