WESTMINSTER — They are tiny lights and they cast only a modest orange glow from the 28 windows of City Hall. But the message the simple electric candles emit is huge.
They were put up in November almost without notice, as part of the annual holiday adornment of City Hall, a mansion built as a residence in 1842.
Yet since the Persian Gulf war ignited on Jan. 16, the lights have taken on a whole new meaning.
The lights have been left up, saidMayor W. Benjamin Brown, to serve as beacons of recognition and remembrance of county residents serving with the allied forces arrayed inSaudi Arabia against Saddam Hussein
In each window, just above the candles, names of county residents serving in the gulf are neatly displayed in black lettering on separate white cardboard placards.
"It's quite picturesque and, I think, thought-provoking," the mayor said.
Along with yellow ribbons, flags, and messages on businesses'signboards, the lights and placards at City Hall have contributed tothe array of expressions of support throughout Carroll.
As of Thursday, there were 46 names hanging in windows in City Hall, Brown said. All four branches of the U.S. military are represented, officers and enlisted personnel alike.
"It's a variation on the 'Leave a light in the window idea,' " the mayor said. "We have left a light lit for them. And each night until they are safely returned to us, it willserve to light their way home."
An unexpected result of the display has been that family members of service personnel whose names are listed have stopped by to see the window listing the name of their relative.
"It comforts me," said Rose Marie Boore, a Westminster resident whose daughter, Nancy, is a first lieutenant in the Army. "I really appreciate it."
The gulf personnel won't be oblivious to the show of support. A local publishing company has arranged for each window to be photographed, with prints being mailed to the service person whose name is in the window.
"I'm sure that they would really like that, to know that they are not forgotten at home," said Boore, who recently visited City Hall with her husband, Donald.
Gamber resident Jeannette Simms said that although her son, Scott, a private in the Army, probably won't receive his photograph for weeks, he'll be thrilled when he finally does see it.
"I think Scott will be reallyproud to know there'll be a candle in the window," said Simms. "It's so pretty."
Simms and her husband, William, plan to make a videotape of their visit to City Hall and send it to their son.
"Before(Scott) left he told me, 'Certain things are really important to me,like family and friends. If I know they are supporting me, that means everything in the world to me,' " Simms said.
City Hall isn't the only place in the county where candles are peeking from windows. The Simms have one in a window in their home, as does a neighbor across the street.
"I think of Scott every time I see it (the neighbor's candle)," Simms said. "It just makes me feel good."
The names displayed in City Hall windows represent only a portion of the Carroll residents serving in the gulf, the mayor said. He invited others who have family members serving there to submit names to City Hall if they wish to have them put in a window.
The names have done more thansimply serve as a display to people passing by City Hall, the mayor said. They've had a unifying effect on city workers.
"It helps to create a bond among the people here," he said. "It never really occurred to me that it would have as profound an effect on the people in the building as on the passers-by. They mean a great deal to me and others here."
Three names adorn the windows in Brown's first-floor office. They are names the mayor never heard before the hostilities began, but they are names he's sure he'll never forget.
"I think about and pray for everyone over there, but particularly for those three, wanting very much for them to come home all right," he said. "I've never met them, but I know them, and they mean something to me."
Efforts to support county servicemen and women at war in the gulf won't end when the fighting ceases, the mayor said. Unlike the reception that awaited soldiers who fought in Vietnam and Korea when they returned home, Brown said Carroll's new veterans will get a warm welcome.
"They've earned a great deal of respect. A lot of (Vietnam veterans) came home and melted into the scenery without anyone giving them the respect that they were due," Brown said. "At least from Westminster and Carroll County, we're not going to let that happen this time."
In the meantime, city officials are planning a rally in support ofthe troops later this month, Brown said.