BUCHAREST, ROMANIA, DEC. 24 -- He was a student whose eye was severely injured by the spray of a police water cannon. That was Thursday night in the midst of an anti-goverment demonstration on the streets of this capital. The student walked alone to nearby Coltea Hospital. After the eye was removed in an emergency room, he insisted on returning to the street. "My place is at the barricades with my friends," he told a nurse. He left the hospital to return to University Square, where, within a few hours, members of the elite force called the Securitate opened fire. These forces, seeking to put down the popular rebellion against Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, killed several hundred unarmed civilians who were chanting for liberty, then stripped their bodies of identification papers and hauled them away in trucks. Street-cleaning machines were called in to wash away the blood. The doctors and nurses who treated the students later witnessed this massacre from a hospital window and said they do not know if the student with one eye lived or died that night. On Christmas Eve here in Bucharest, after the overthrow of Ceausescu but with snipers of the Securitate still killing civilians in the streets, there were prayers and tears of gratitude for the young people who stood up to the automatic weapons of the Securitate and, in their dying, propelled a remarkable one-week revolution. "My soul is in mourning because they fought for freedom and today they do not have the joy of that freedom. I cannot forget them," said Finantu Paul, a journalist for the Romanian Press Agency who attended pre-Christmas services at Bucharest's 300-year-old Metropolitan Cathedral. He was lighting candles at the church and weeping openly. Throughout this epochal year of change in communist Eastern Europe, there has been a sure popular sense of how firmly the people need to push to make totalitarian regimes cave in. In Poland, it was sophisticated political maneuvering by the leaders of Solidarity. In Hungary, East Germany and Bulgaria, there was little or no violence. In Czechoslovakia, the trigger for change was one night of police brutality in which scores were clubbed but no one was killed. In each case the message of the people seem to overwhelm the will of aging Communist leaders to resist. In each of these countries, the crowd voiced a sentiment that was stated eloquently at the close of a demonstration in November in Wenceslas Square in Prague. Telling a crowd of about a quarter million people to go home quickly and not break any windows, a speaker quoted from a Czech opera: "We are not a mob; we are the people." But here in Romania, it is taking an extra measure of heroism for people in the streets to win. "We proved with our blood that we are in Europe," said Stefan Andreescu, a historian at the University of Bucharest's Jorga Historical Institute. The Romanian army capitulated last week to the mass will. Protesters who were on the streets here last week say they did not see any army soldiers shoot at the demonstrators. By Friday, when the army clearly had gone over to the people, crowds were stuffing Christmas trees in the barrels of army tank cannons and over the weekend women have continued to bring sandwiches to soldiers. But Ceausescu, who reigned as a megalomaniac over a system that built palatial monuments to his ego and tried to cut off Romanians from both the capitalist West and the reforming communist East, had trained a special security force that was willing to shoot down unarmed civilians, even when its cause appeared lost and its leader was toppled. Although Christmas was near, and state radio and television were broadcasting songs and chorals of the Christian festival today for the first time in 45 years, the mood of this newly liberated nation was less festive than funereal. Many Romanians, attending churches and grimly manning hundreds of road blocks set up around the city to prevent Securitate members from escaping, said they would delay Christmas celebrations until next year. For now, they said, they must fight and remember the thousands of people who have been killed by Securitate troops, which appear to have turned into small bands of assassins. At Bucharest's main emergency hospital, doctors said that Securitate snipers, apparently using infra-red telescopic sights and exploding dum-dum bullets, had been firing throughout Saturday night and that they shot many civilians, with bullets striking foreheads and hearts. The morgue at the hospital was stacked with 90 bodies at noon today, almost all of them civilians dead of gunshot wounds. At the hospital, there was one wounded member of the Securitate in the intensive-care ward. He came into the hospital Saturday with a shoulder wound and an automatic pistol hidden under his bandages. In a corridor, according to a doctor, the man pulled out his pistol, pointed at people and pulled the trigger. He had no ammunition. It took six orderlies and doctors to wrestle the Securitate man to the ground. "He was very poised and very sure of himself," said a doctor who treated him. "He gave the impression of a man who is well acquainted. He called us torturers and before we sedated him, he said he will kill us all if we didn't release him. He said there are 400 {of his force} left in his sector and they would take care of all of the Romanian people." "We very well know that we have escaped from a nightmare," said Patriarch Teoctist, head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, to which 85 percent of Romanians belong and which has been harshly repressed under Ceausescu. In the week leading up to Christmas, the events -- a massacre of several thousand protesters in the eastern city of Timisoara last weekend, and the continued killing of civilians, particularly young people who remain in the streets -- can be seen as "a very painful reenactment of the Bible," the patriarch said. He compared Ceausescu to King Herod, who in the New Testament ordered that all the males in his kingdom be killed, in an attempt to kill Jesus. "Unfortunately, before this feast of Christmas, a feast devoted to the children, Ceausescu launched a massacre against young people. Today in the holy literature we have remembered all those people who died," the patriarch said. After he spoke to a small group of residents on a hill in downtown Bucharest near the old cathedral, the patriarch showed them to the door. But a sniper was shooting at the church and people were hiding in doorways. "They are devils," muttered the patriarch's chief aide. At the emergency hospital across town, also being hit with intermittent sniper fire throughout the day, soldiers painstakingly searched each visitor, fearing that the Securitate might want to enter the hospital and take it over. Inside the wards, doctors said they were short of anesthetics and antibiotics. They added that, as of today, there is no shortage of blood because so many city residents had come to donate, and had also brought cooked food to the crowded hospitals. University students have been enlisted as volunteer orderlies throughout the hospital, many working with little or no sleep for four days now. "It is Christmas. It is the first time in our lives we have had a free Christmas," said Iana Popesu, 21. She was born three years after the 71-year-old Ceausescu came to power in this country. Another student, Bogdan Lazaroae, 20, who studies engineering at the University of Bucharest, said the overthrow of Ceausescu had pushed his country into an exhilarating but unfamiliar state of liberty. "We don't know what freedom means. We don't know how to use freedom. We don't know what it is to walk, to talk and to think free," he said. "We have only seen darkness and silence."