Before the bombs hit Iraq last week, everyone, it seems, had an opinion on whether the United States should go to war or not. That debate continues, but now that the war is underway, many Anne Arundel residents have shifted those conversations to include talk of how the conflict will affect their lives here at home.
From train stations to shopping malls and from grocery stores to schools, residents are wondering if the U.S.-led military action will result in retaliatory action. And if so, in what form might that action come?
Lea Hiers, station manager at the Dorsey train station on MARC's Camden line, is one of the worried ones. She's frightened about the toll the war will take on the troops and she wonders whether the invasion of Iraq will lead to violence against Americans and U.S. interests.
In a word, Hiers said she is scared.
"It's like the whole world situation seems to be shaky," said Hiers, a mother of three grown children, including an active-duty soldier who served in Afghanistan for 71/2 months.
Hiers said she especially worries for the troops, and she cries a lot.
"I feel like I shouldn't stop my life," Hiers said, speaking in her ticket booth over the volume of a radio broadcasting the latest war news. "On the other hand, how can we just keep going on when something's happening?"
At the Westfield Shoppingtown mall in Annapolis, Leslie Eastwood, 47, a sales associate at KB Toys taking a break, surveyed the food court and talked of the uncertainty she feels these days.
"I'm frightened," said Eastwood, mother of two sons. "I'm scared for everyone, my sons in particular."
Eastwood's 25-year-old son has completed his service in the Air Force. However, her 20-year-old son is on active duty, though not currently in the Middle East.
Eastwood's parents decided to cut short a trip to Florida in light of the war.
"In a crisis like this they would rather be home close to their family," said Eastwood, of Annapolis. "They also wanted to come home in case the family needs to go to their contingency plan."
Eastwood explained that if a major attack were to occur, she and her siblings and their families plan to meet at her parent's Annapolis house.
"You feel protected and all of the sudden something like this happens. What do you do in all of this?" says Eastwood, adding that she wonders whether Annapolis would be considered particularly vulnerable to a retaliatory attack because it is a state capitol. "It's scary."
Eastwood said she doesn't want to live in fear. After recovering from the nagging anxiety she felt during the sniper attacks last fall, she said believes the war has only deepened residents' concerns about their safety.
Other residents are feeling less anxiety.
Sitting across from one another at the Annapolis mall, Leanna Ransaw and Keya Brown, who both live in the city, said they feel relatively unaffected by the start of war.
Over her fast-food lunch, 52-year-old Ransaw quickly rejected the idea of preparing for a retaliatory attack on U.S. soil. However, 54-year-old Brown admitted that she has purchased emergency supplies such as duct tape, food and bottled water.
"I have my water and stuff so I know that's okay," said Brown, adding that she feels she would be ready in the event of an attack on the home front.
Like other Americans, Hiers said she and her husband, who live in Laurel, are conflicted about preparing for a massive retaliation.
"We've talked about having a safe room," she said, adding that they have not created one yet.
But even if she and her husband were forced into a safe room, Hiers said, she wonders what her surroundings and life would be like once she emerged.
Annapolis resident Ron Wiseley, 20, also at the mall, also said he has not made emergency preparations.
"I'd either just die," Wiseley said, "or move away."
Wiseley, a painter who also works at Buddy's Crabs & Ribs in Annapolis, said several of his friends have moved away from the Washington area to avoid being in an area that is a potential target of anti-American attacks. But the way Wiseley sees it, anyplace in the country is vulnerable.
"You really can't get away from that," said Wisely, who is opposed to the war. "I'm afraid, definitely, living in Annapolis. I just don't feel like they should be over there fighting that war when they should be over here."
Dental assistant Nichole Faudree, 24, is jittery about the war, although she has received some calming words from a friend in the Marines. While lamenting his expected deployment, Faudree said, her friend told her that he was simply doing his job as a member of the military.
"He said, 'I do it because that's my job. I do it to protect you and everybody else.' That kind of made me feel a lot better. They know what they're fighting for. I know we're in good hands."
Faudree, also of Annapolis, said she has considered the reality of a retaliation attack.
"You can't do anything about it," she said. "I can't let it worry me. That's not good, either."
Seventy-year-old Marty Tranby of Annapolis would agree.
"We're going to win," said the retired Annapolis resident, resolute in his tone. "Don't worry about it. The troops are trained right."