Carol Hutchinson's last-minute wedding preparations include: meeting relatives at the airport, cleaning the house, picking up maid-of-honor gifts at the mall, going to the rehearsal, hoping that the war ends.
"I'm doing just the same as everyone else. I'm going on a day-to-day basis," says the Columbia administrative assistant, who is getting married tomorrow. "I keep thinking about what's going on and then I continue with what I'm doing.
"Here I am trying to get a suntan" -- to look good in her wedding dress -- "and those guys are marching into a war."
Like millions of other Americans, Ms. Hutchinson and her fiance, Vietnam veteran Lee Delellis, woke up yesterday to find themselves caught between the banalities of everyday existence and the knowledge that the nation was at war.
"Here we are, starting a new life together and there are going to be some people ending their lives over there," says Mr. Delellis. ,, "But it's not going to stop the wedding."
Nor should the war get in the way of the Jan. 27 Super Bowgame, according to White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, who said Pres. Bush wants the nation to know, "Life goes on."
But in offices and schools, in the midst of business transactions and wedding preparations, many people found themselves pondering the smallness of day-to-day routine vs. the magnitude of war. "I keep thinking how relative it all is. We're all in this together and now I wonder how important is my health club or my job or my car trouble?" says Deborah Tunney, director of programs at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
One woman called her host to ask if a Sunday birthday party would be canceled. Others carried televisions to their offices. Still others struggled to put their lives in perspective: "I feel as though the human species is like the dinosaurs, about to be destructed, and yet I'm cooking lunch," says Kathy Myrowitz, a northwest Baltimore mother of two, who said she woke up feeling "horrified and saddened."
To finance and insurance consultant Chris Imbach, life suddenly took on a confusing dichotomy. By day, he says, "the bottom line for me is that my clients still need to retire comfortably and they still need estate planning and waiting for this war to end isn't going to help them."
But by night, as a volunteer paramedic with the Baltimore County Fire Department, he talks to colleagues with relatives in the Gulf and is on alert in case of terrorist attacks. He's aware these days that "every time the alarm goes off, you've got one more thing to worry about."
In the midst of preparations for art openings and museum festivities, Ms. Tunney, of the BMA, found herself questioning her career choice.
"Some people think maybe the arts are frivolous and it's not a fundamental need of society at this time and I've grappled with that quite a bit. I have actually done research on previous wars -- it is beneficial for people to go to movies, play games. I have concluded arts are the soul and the spirit of the nation."
After an evening spent "glued to the news reports," Paul Mittermeir, assistant manager of the Towson Frank's Nursery and Crafts, was shocked to wake up and find the world unchanged. "I couldn't believe it. The sun rose. Even in Kuwait. You saw the oil refinery burning in Kuwait and the sun behind it. Amazing: The sun still rose."
Perhaps, as Alvin "Maj" Levy, dean emeritus at McDonogh School near Owings Mills, told students: "You go on. You realize that we have to carry on in as normal a way as we possibly can. We say more prayers, I guess. It doesn't mean we don't worry or we don't care."