Pinball players at the Mount Royal Tavern scarcely looked up from their games as the news that the United States had launched air raids against Iraq flashed across the television screen.
At a Royal Farms store in Reisterstown today, the manager got 38 copies of The Sun instead of the usual 11. However, within 45 minutes, customers had scooped up all of the newspapers, taking as many as four each.
For a "ready-set-go" war that began like no other, Baltimoreans absorbed the news in their own way.
At McCabe's bar in Hampden last night, Will Brown did a couple of Richard Nixon imitations to lighten up the war reports and the small clutch of regulars took time out to cut a chocolate birthday cake celebrating Keith Folger's 32nd birthday.
On the shuttle van from Johns Hopkins University to the Rotunda, Eleanor Ethrides heard the grim news and burst into tears.
"I cried," Ethrides said. "Because it was real. It was really happening."
"I feel scared inside -- very concerned and very confused," said Joan Garrity, who learned of the attack while shopping at Towson Marketplace for, of all things, a peace earring for her son, Gabe, 13.
The Garritys stood in the TV department of the Best store, stunned and transfixed before 44 TV images of CBS anchorman Dan Rather, who was telling what he knew about the newborn war. Gabe said he planned to wear his peace earring to Dumbarton Middle School today.
"I don't think they should have started anything," he said of the allied forces. "They shouldn't have jumped on them so quick. They should have tried to talk first."
Others seemed quite relieved to see the war begin.
"I was happy to hear it. I want 'em to blow up the whole country," said Derek Slayton, 19, of Essex, who also heard the news while shopping in Towson.
"I was of the opinion they should have done it a lot sooner," said Katherine Miller, the co-owner of McCabe's. "People didn't used to mess with the good ol' USA."
"You knew it was coming, but now the reality is here," said Mike Camper, 29, a city public works inspector. "The buildup was nerve-wracking. Knowing that it's finally here is a bit of a relief."
Camper was sharing a pitcher of beer at a bar with Elliott Womble, 33, a city substitute teacher.
"You could hear a pin drop," Womble said of the moment when the news flashed. "Even the drunks seemed to get sober. It was like when the space shuttle blew up."
At a posh Annapolis hotel, state Del. John C. Astle, D-Anne Arundel, was chatting amid the fondue and fruit at a legislative reception when someone said, "It's started. The bombs are falling."
Astle, 47, a twice-wounded Vietnam veteran, --ed upstairs to find a television.
As a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves, Astle could be called to go fight, a prospect that doesn't faze him.
"It's like being in the locker room and not being able to play in the game," he said. "I feel like I should be there."
When the news came, Eric Taylor, 32, the cook who produces McCabe's vaunted hamburgers, immediately thought of his brother and brother-in-law, both in their 20s and both in the Persian Gulf region.
"Really I'm against war. . . . But, it was something that was going to happen," said Taylor, who came out from the kitchen to smoke a cigarette and watch the president's speech. "They would say the United States is just a pushover. You've got to put your foot down somewhere."
Taylor's 19-year-old sister-in-law, a newlywed whose husband is in the Middle East, was so distraught family members were dispatched last night to bring her home from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, where she is a student.
An instructor at the Temple School on O'Donnell Street came into Tanya Moss' class at 7:15 p.m. and told them that the war had started.
"Everybody wanted to go home to be with their families," said Moss, a medical office assistant student at Temple School. "Most of us have relatives over there. My stepfather's over there."
His name is Kenneth Lewis and he was sent to Saudi Arabia from Germany. Moss said her mother's expecting twins: "I don't know if she can deal with this."
The war is "ridiculous." she said. "We're over there fighting for something we have nothing to do with."