Spring was in the air this week, but the reality of war was never far behind in the minds of local residents.
Tank cameras and images of American POWs provided an eerie televised backdrop for local residents trying to maintain normal routines through the balmy weekend and into the work week.
Arlington police continued stepped-up patrols at 100 potential terrorist targets in the county. School trips were canceled or postponed.
Alexandria SWAT teams and other special police units that had been working overtime returned to normal schedules but remained on guard.
At Agudas Achim Congregation in Alexandria, an off-duty uniformed police officer patrolled the halls and parking lot of the synagogue during Saturday morning services. The more than 400 people in attendance were unsettled by the war, Rabbi Jack Moline said.
"I think everybody's ears are tuned to the sound of distant thunder," Moline said. "I also think everybody is doing their level best to keep life as normal as possible, especially for the children."
Moline, for example, took advantage of the weekend's sunny weather to ride his bicycle with his son on paths in the Fairlington and Parkfairfax neighborhoods in Arlington.
Moline said his congregation members' opinions on the conflict run the gamut.
"I have people who are ready to block traffic in the streets of Washington and others who would go off to the gulf and everything in between," Moline said. "Nobody's happy about it."
Even in a region where residents have been toughened -- by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the Pentagon, the fall sniper shootings and the recent duct-tape-and-bottled-water frenzy of February's Code Orange alert -- some are showing signs of stress.
"I turn [the television] on to see the reports, and when they get repetitive, I have to change the channel," said Ciara Miller, 27, a lawyer who lives in Springfield. She and her family have planned evacuation routes, and she carries bottled water and nonperishable food in her car. "It makes me nervous. . . . The fear of retaliation is a concern."
Ruby E. Brown, director of the Arlington County office of the Community Resilience Project, said her agency has had a significant increase in calls from community groups, parents and businesses wanting mental health counselors to conduct stress management and "psychological preparation" workshops since the war began.
The project is a federally funded crisis counseling program established after the terrorist attacks to help residents in Alexandria and Arlington, Loudoun and Fairfax counties cope with the tragedy.
"We began to see a surge in request for services around the time of the sniper," Brown said. "That has not diminished with the advent of war. . . . It's picking up even more. People are feeling in some ways a little numb and yet wanting to do something to feel that they have some control."
School officials in Alexandria and Arlington said the days of war have been relatively uneventful for area schools, with the exception of T.C. Williams High School where about 150 students, carrying placards and giving the peace sign, walked out on the Pledge of Allegiance on Thursday to protest the start of the war. Other students joined larger antiwar protests in the District.
Arlington County school officials canceled a Washington-Lee High School spring break trip to Reims, France, to visit exchange students who had traveled to Virginia this year.
"We've said after things settled down it could be rescheduled," spokeswoman Linda Erdos said.
Arlington police spokesman John Ritter said officers are continuing extra patrols at potential attack targets, such as the courthouse and federal buildings. All officers are required to carry full chemical protection gear, he said.
Alexandria police spokeswoman Amy Bertsch said the department had scaled back overtime shifts that had been ordered for its SWAT team, canine unit, motorcycle squad and community support officers after the onset of war last week. "We are really getting back to normal," she said.
Many local residents said they were hoping that the conflict would end soon, especially after weekend fighting resulted in American casualties.
"I think [invading] was the right thing to do, but it really upsets me when I see another American soldier dying," said Jon Kneifl, 28, of Alexandria, an advertising sales representative. "I hope there are no more."