The countdown started at midnight. That was when hundreds of area residents began the wait to see if their peace rallies, T-shirt sales and talks with youths around the city would translate into a Thanksgiving without bloodshed.

The "Stop the Violence" campaign was started seven weeks ago by radio station WPGC (95.5 FM), but churches, organizations and individual area residents have joined too.

As of last night, there were 433 homicides this year in the District. Last year, there were a record 434 killings.

In Prince George's County, there have been 109 homicides, compared with 118 this time last year and a total of 127 for 1989.

"We wanted to increase everyone's awareness of the violence and how it can be avoided," said Dave Ferguson, the station's program director.

"We invited people on {the air} to tell stories of what they've done to fight violence in their communities. The thing is, if we can do it for one day, we can do it another and another," he added.

Ferguson said the station has followed suggestions given by its young listeners.

A "Stop the Violence" T-shirt was created. It sells for $10 and the proceeds will go to a scholarship fund.

A District listener, Vickey Wilcher, 30, thought there should be a "chain for peace" and "peace rallies." She and seven friends organized "The November 22nd Coalition for a Cease Fire" three weeks ago.

"We didn't think it was enough to just ask that the violence be stopped," Wilcher said.

Wilcher has walked through open-air drug markets to talk to young people.

"The consensus I've gotten is that they feel we don't care as a society," she said.

The coalition and the radio station held peace rallies around the metropolitan area, and at Celebrity Hall, the go-go club in the District, and Marlow Heights Crystal Skates rink, the scenes of past shootings.

At every stop, chain links were handed out. The links will be joined in a peace chain at a rally at sunrise today on the grounds of the Washington Monument.

The Kiwanis Club's Landover Capital Centre chapter donated 500 chain links.

Jesse L. Jackson was scheduled to read the names of people slain in the District this year.