The night America went to war Ann Sarber stayed up late. Her husband, an Army chief warrant officer like herself, was there in the desert of Saudi Arabia when the jet fighters soared toward Iraq.
She watched Cable News Network until 1:30 yesterday morning. Hours later, the telephone rang in her office at Fort Meade. Bill Sarber offered a simple message: "I'm OK. Don't worry about me. Just take care of yourself."
"I was happy, extremely happy," the Hanover woman said. "I was fine until I hung up the phone, and then it came, these uncontrollable tears."
"I'm proud of what he's doing," she said. "I'm scared for him, even though he says not to worry."
Sarber has been in the Army for 18 years, but said she never expected to be at war.
"I want it to be over, but I want it to be done right, so we don't have to goback in," she said. "I back what the president's doing. I really do.I have a lot of friends over there. I hope they all come back safely."
Yesterday afternoon, Sarber stopped by Holy Trinity Church on Dorsey Road, where she teaches religious education to kindergarten students. She hugged Associate Pastor Gerry Bowen and Religious Education Director Mary Jane Thomas. She wiped tears away. She told them she was fine.
Across the county yesterday, people drew together. They shared their fears for loved ones and their hope for a quick end to the fighting. Some offered donations of blood; others stepped into recruiting stations and signed on for the battle.
The Randazzo family of Glen Burnie has heard nothing from their two loved ones in the desert. Sgt. Ronald M. Randazzo, 24, drives an Army tank. His brother-in-law, John Brass, serves with the Marines. The family hasn't heard from either of them in several weeks, said Paul Randazzo, Ronald's 22-year-old brother.
Like anyone with relatives in the gulf, the Randazzos have been watching the news almost continuously since the war broke out, waiting for information about the possibility of fighting between ground forces.
"My mother's quite upset, and my father keeps to himself," Paul said. His 19-year-old sister, Alice Brass, was too distraught over her husband to talk to a reporter on the phone. She is six months pregnant.
In Severna Park on Thursday, Mary A. Roberts wasn't telling her granddaughter, 3-year-old Kirsten, that her father is fighting in a war. Navy Lt. Claude J. Coucoules, a Washington state native and 1984 graduate of the Naval Academy, is aboard the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga, stationed in the Red Sea.
"She's too young to know," Roberts said. "She knows he's out to sea, and she'swaiting for him to come back."
The American Red Cross donor center in Glen Burnie offered county residents a way to turn their anxietyinto action.
"I was up all night watching CNN," said Mandy Martin, who works at the center. "I heard they needed blood and thought at least I can do something. There's not much else I can do to help."
Troy Young, a graduate of Arundel Senior High, drove home from a visit in Virginia yesterday morning to donate blood for his buddies. Worried for his friends fighting in the Persian Gulf, the 19-year-old college student decided to help by giving blood.
"I have a couple offriends who were supposed to be the first to attack," he said. "It'skind of weird. I'm scared for them."
Word of war was good for business at the military recruiting office in the Harundale Mall, where Marine Sgt. John Heisterman had no worry about meeting his quota of two recruits a month.
"As a matter of fact, I had people in my delayed entry program call me to make sure I knew we were at war -- they were that enthusiastic," he said yesterday while colleagues busily explained life in the military to potential soldiers and sailors in adjoining Navy, Air Force and Army offices.
Heisterman saw four recruits pass boot camp and sign contracts in August, when President Bush sent the first wave of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia. After dropping toone recruit in September, he's met his goal in every month since, with the high point last October when six recruits signed up.
"I just hope it's not over before I graduate," said George Holochwost, a Broadneck High School junior who turns 18 today.
"I want to support my country and the Marines are the elite of the United States armed forces," he said. "After what I heard what the Iraqis did to the Kuwaitis, we had no choice. We set an ultimatum. If we backed down, it would have made us look weak and that's the farthest in my eyes from what America is."
Of course, not everyone was so enthusiastic.
At St. John's College in Annapolis, 19-year-old Jane McManus curled up on a couch in the campus lounge, where students came together by the side of a hearth fire. She was reading Dante's "Inferno," and saw a parallel to the destruction in Iraq.
"It's fitting, somehow, today reading the 'Inferno.' It just seems so fitting," said the sophomore, who hopes to attend law school.