The light was fading fast, and Ruth Long was on a mission. She had an armful of leftover canary-yellow ribbon and only a few people still left to tie them.

"Baby, come on and tie this ribbon. You got enough room?" Long asked neighbors as she gingerly stepped over some rocks and stretched out her arms to decorate yet another tree with a painstakingly tied bow.

"We're going to try to keep them up until Grant comes back. We hope it won't be long," she said.

Long was one of about 40 residents of the 1700 block of Swann Street NW who decorated the trees outside their homes last night with yellow ribbons, a gesture of solidarity and support for one of their own: Pfc. Grant Aikin, 20, who grew up on the block and is now stationed in Saudi Arabia.

Aikin, who graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School and was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., before being sent overseas, is one of about 100,000 American military people who have been sent to the Middle East in an attempt to force Iraqi troops to withdraw from Kuwait.

Last night, members of the close-knit block gathered to show support for his family and to remember the contribution Aikin is making to the U.S. effort.

"What we have here is an extended family, and we're extending out arms to the family," Long said. "Every time you walk out of the door, this will be a reminder that somebody else's child is less fortunate. My children are all here."

Jesse L. Jackson, who recently returned from Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations, prayed with the residents and called for continued negotiations to end the standoff.

"We must not allow the price of oil to go up and the price of blood to go down," he told the crowd as he stood on the steps of the Aikins' three-story town house.

"If we press forward, I'm convinced that we can end the war . . . {and} Grant can come back home and sit on this corner with us," he said.

Grant's mother, Lee Aikin, circulated petitions asking people to conserve energy as a way to show support for the troops in Saudi Arabia.

"It's nice to know the neighbors remember and they care," she said.

After Jackson spoke, 4-year-old Meredith Winfield Kummings, who lives a few doors from the Aikins, made an impromptu speech in baby talk.

She later presented Lee Aikin with a rock and a piece of ribbon.

"The rock is for Grant in Saudi Arabia, so he can throw it if there is a war," her mother, Ruth L. Kummings, translated.

With last night being the eve of the D.C. primaries, Jackson -- a candidate for the shadow seat to the U.S. Senate -- reminded the crowd to turn out to vote and encouraged them to support the District's statehood movement.

"The difference between Grant and his colleagues {from elsewhere} who also are there {is that} he has no senator or congressman who can vote to protect his interest," Jackson said.