As more than 300 of his schoolmates romped and wriggled in their seats to the beat of the U.S. Navy Ceremonial Band, 9-year-old Chris German sat expressionless, chin in hand.
One of the few times the fourth grader perked up was during the band leader's dedication of the "Stars and Stripes" -- to his dad, Bruce W. German, now held hostage in Iran. The other time was the band's French horns bursting in to the theme from "Star Wars."
"Chris is under a lot of stress," said his teacher, Mary Cummings, who hovered protectively next to the small boy. "But he's doing remarkably well." h
The Tuesday afternoon concert at Rockville's English Manor Elementary School had been planned months ago. But to show support for Chris and his family, school principal Robert Stevens decided to dedicate the program to Bruce German.
"Events like this are important. They give students an opportunity to show support for their friends and to demonstrate their patriotism," said Stevens.
Earlier that morning students tied a symbolic yellow ribbon around a tree in front of the school while Chris' mother, Marge German, watched. The ribbon tying ceremony was to immediately precede the afternoon program but was held earlier because Marge Gernam had to spend the day at the State Department along with the families of the other hostages.
Bruce German, 43, had been in Iran only five weeks when the U.S. Embassy was taken over by Iranian militants on Nov. 4. A budget officer, German was about to start an 18-month assignment of taking care of unpaid bills and other financial problems left behind when Americans were evacuated from Iran last year.
"He was going over there to do them (Iranians) a favor, and he wound up in all of this," sighed Marge German during a telephone interview."But we've had a couple of letters from him and he sounds hopeful."
She said her husband is worried about whether she and their three children have enough money.
"I've written to assure him that we do, but I'm not sure whether the letters are getting through," she said.
At the Tuesday concert, Chris listened as the ebullient band leader explained various instruments to the children assembled in the sunny auditorium. Teachers scampered about trying to hush youngsters excited by lively tunes such as "zorba the Greek," but Chris remained silent.
"He's quieter now," explained one of his classmates. "He doesn't like to talk about it."
"I'm glad we're doing this for the hostages and for Chris," said another fourth grader as he listened to the music.
As the assembly ended, Chris lined up with his classmates to return to the classroom. The day was almost over and Chris smiled and talked with his friends, his troubles momentarily out of mind.
Principal Stevens said no one had to make an extra effort to be nicer to Chris now, because, "He's a delightful boy. He was always well liked."