Hours before the last grain of sand was to fall through the Persian Gulf hourglass yesterday -- taking with it hopes of a peaceful solution to the crisis -- the tension of war was becoming palpable among Carroll residents and leaders.
As the United Nations deadline for Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait drew near, U.S. Representative Beverly B. Byron said she wasn't expecting an 11th-hour solution.
But the congresswoman said she also didn't expect an immediate U.S. strike against Saddam Hussein and his million-man army.
"I wouldn't stay up all night tonight," the seven-term congresswoman said during an annual meeting with the Carroll Commissioners in Westminster yesterday.
Though not optimistic about the prospects of a non-military solution, Byron said she foresees a short battle, should war come.
"The feeling is that it (a conflict) would be intense and quick, with a resolve to keep the loss of life as minimal as possible," she said.
Though talk has surfaced in Washington of reinstating the draft, Byron said she didn't think it would be necessary.
Byron was one of four of the 10-member Maryland congressional delegation who voted Saturday to support the resolution authorizing President Bush to use force to expel the Iraqis, who have occupied Kuwait since Aug. 2.
Though constituent sentiment before the vote was running 2-to-1against the nation going to war, Byron said the response to her office since Saturday's vote has been surprisingly positive.
"I would've thought that many irate people would be calling Sunday and Monday,but I've had no calls like that," she said.
But not all Carroll residents were pleased with the resolution.
"The president is in much too big a hurry," said Frances Nyce, a Westminster resident and peace activist who plans to march in a Jan. 26 anti-war demonstration in Washington. "The best way to support (the troops) would be to bringthem back here."
Another Carroll activist criticized Byron for her vote on the resolution.
"In this particular case, she did not vote what her constituents wanted, and it's probably the most importantvote she'll ever cast," said Taneytown resident Yvonne Small, director of the Frederick Peace Resource Center.
But as war clouds gathered, residents and other elected leaders fell in behind the presidentand the resolution.
"If I were in Congress and had a vote, I would vote for military action in support of the president," said state Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore. "We've invested too much and gone too far. There's no turning back.
"I believe in diplomacy,but we've spent enough time on diplomacy," the senator said. "If themaniac doesn't withdraw from Kuwait by the 15th, we should become aggressive and do what's necessary."
Meanwhile, county residents with family members stationed in the Persian Gulf region had quite different concerns as yesterday's deadline was about to expire.
New Windsor resident Mary D. Carter-Cross, whose son Joe H. Carter III is stationed with the Army in Saudi Arabia, planned to spend the night near her television, awaiting word of war or any new developments in thegulf.
"I absolutely plan to stay up until midnight and through the morning," she said. "I usually have the TV on all through the night. I may fall asleep, but if there's something to be heard, I'll hear it.
"I want to know what to be praying for," she said.
Althoughworried about her son's safety in the likelihood of war, Carter-Cross has found some spiritual peace and strength through Joe, the eldestof her three children.
"I hit low points sometimes," she said. "But something he said in his last letter gives me strength. He said, 'Thus far, the Lord has kept me safe and for that each day I'm thankful.' "
Nancy Spaugh of Westminster has been hanging on to her TV, too.
"I'm staying by the TV and listening to the news," said Spaugh, whose son Gerald Rosier also is stationed as an Army private in theMiddle East. "I have no thoughts on my mind. I'm a total blank. I was really hoping the (United Nations) could do something.
"I have no doubt that there will be war," she added.
Spaugh said she was relieved that Congress backed Bush's plans in the Persian Gulf. She said it was important for Congress to show support for the soldiers.
"My son has asked me why people are protesting," she said. "The soldiers don't understand that. I told him they're not protesting the soldiers but the war. He said he signed a piece of paper, knowing full well he could go to war."
Spaugh has not felt much anxiety during the drawn-out ordeal until the past few days.
"I can feel myself tightening up," she said. "I do believe in what's going on over there. If we don't take care of it now, what's going to happen two years fromnow?"
Retired Col. William E. Weber of New Windsor grapples with mixed emotions at the prospect of war. He served in the Army from 1943 until 1980, losing an arm and a leg in the Korean War.
"I'm no proponent of war. It's one of the most wasteful efforts of mankind," he said. "I pray that both diplomacy and common sense prevail and we can achieve that objective without going to war. If not, we have no other alternative except to fight."
A peace vigil was conducted Monday night at St. John's Episcopal Church in Mount Airy. And in Westminster, city officials are putting lights and the names of soldiers in the windows of City Hall, for families that so request.
"It's a takeoff of the old 'Leave a light in the window' idea," said Mayor W. Benjamin Brown.