Haven't we been down this road before? The waiting. The endless scenarios to ponder. The what-ifs and then-whats to consider. Even the weather charts and moon phases that we examine for clues as to when it's going to happen.
Just as we held our collective breath waiting for the beginning of the Persian Gulf war, now Americans are waiting for the news that it has turned into a ground war.
"My anxiety has really increased since they started talking about the ground war. I felt the same thing when the war first started. Then for a while, we started accepting things, accepting this is how the war is going to be, and now, here's another hump again," said Eunice Clark, a Millersville woman who has a son serving in the gulf.
"I think all of us, not just relatives [of U.S. troops], are thinking, 'What sort of craziness are we in for now?' " said Ms. Clark, a psychiatric nurse who has started a support group for parents such as herself.
The Rev. Terrie Modesto, a pastor at Hiss United Methodist Church in Parkville, agreed that anxieties have started climbing again since talk of a ground war intensified.
"You can just see it on the faces of parishioners, or hear the tension in their voices when you call them. I believe when the war first broke out -- the aerial war -- right before that, there was tension, and now we're going through a second phase," said Ms. Modesto, who also has started a family support group.
She and others say they dread a ground war because they fear increased casualties. "So many people have hoped for a nice clean war," she said. "But no war is clean."
Indeed, the news footage of Iraqi civilians recently killed in the bombing of an alleged military bunker by the United States already has changed attitudes toward the war, a change that will continue if and when a ground war starts, said Robert Weber, a political science professor at Western Maryland College in Westminster.
"The public went through the first phase, where they reacted to the aerial war like a video game," Mr. Weber said. "But after seeing the civilians killed, all of a sudden the war has taken on a human dimension. I think people are really steeling themselves, and we're going to see a real erosion of public support."