Waiting his turn at Fred's Barber Shop Monday, Terrance Boyle pondered his political change of heart, wrought one photograph at a time.
"Disgusting, terrible," the Korean War veteran said of the photographs of Iraqi prisoner abuse that implicate the 372nd Military Police Company, headquartered here in Allegany County. The more photos he has seen, Boyle said, the more he has thought: "We don't belong in there. That clown in the White House don't belong in there, either. And I voted for him."
For generations, the people of this three-state Appalachian region have sent their children off to war. Tens of thousands from Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia have left to serve, and sometimes never returned.
Now they say seven of those have shamed them, and as the photos trickle back, more and more people here are challenging a war -- and a president -- to say they want out.
"There's a lot of embarrassment," said downtown manager Ed Mullaney, among the locals who had gone all out to support the 372nd, writing encouraging letters and sending gifts early in the unit's deployment.
Now, Mullaney said, there is a feeling that the 372nd soldiers "kind of got set up. But that doesn't make it right."
Cumberland, population 24,000, is the county seat and unofficial capital of the region. People from 50 miles around drive through the mountains to shop on its cobblestone pedestrian thoroughfare downtown, a pretty Main Street that belies the region's hard times. Monday afternoon, the outdoor mall was bathed in sun, dotted with flags, vintage signs and the weekday lunch crowd. There's Zembower's American Hardware, Aber's Hallmark and a hot dog shop whose cheerfully painted and misspelled sign reads "Curtis' Famous Weiners, Since 1918."
At Downtown Dollar, displays of tomato seedlings and flag-embossed gravestone decorations flanked an eight-foot-tall Uncle Sam carrying a sign that read "Proud to be an American." Inside, Bobbie Cover of Carpendale, W.Va., said she was ashamed to say she longer supports the war.
"I just feel we need to be out of there," she said, clutching a spray of yellow silk flowers. "I've always supported our men, but now I hope they bring our men home and let the U.N. take care of things," she added.
"Now there's more pictures and videos, and where is this going to end?" wondered Charles Johnson, a Vietnam veteran who lives at the YMCA and works as a cook at Denny's.
"I want to support Bush," said Johnson, 52. "But now that he knows this is out, now he's got to do something to rectify the situation. He's got to make somebody higher up accountable."
Dustin Freas, 22, summed up what the newly minted political science graduate said are the feelings of the town. When the invasion of Iraq started, "a lot of people supported the war," he said, cradling a boxer puppy. "Now I'd say it's about 50-50."
Since the photos implicating the 372nd came out, "I think people are super embarrassed and afraid even of terrorism in Cumberland," he said, adding "that would probably kill about what, 12 people?" As for himself, "I support Bush 110 percent," he said. "No one agrees with the torturing" of prisoners, he said. "But what are you going to do?"
When this was Maryland's "Queen City," the Cumberland Arms housed visitors. Now it houses elderly residents, who sit on the benches outside to watch fellow townspeople evade the international media that have arrived since the prison abuses became public.
Charles Ringler, 72, fidgeted with the U.S. flag attached to his motorized scooter and said, "I spent two years in Korea, and if someone said, 'Do this, do that,' you do it. So I think the higher-ups are as much at fault as the guys who've done it.
"We ought to support the president -- we elected him," Ringler said. But the war, he said, "It's a mess, just a mess."
M. Susan Cerutti, who shares the town manager's office with Mullaney, said she has been kept busy escorting reporters in town, taking the opportunity to show them the downtown improvements.
"Had those kids been properly supervised, this wouldn't have happened," she said of the 372nd soldiers, and then, "that's enough of that."
What she'd rather tell the reporters about, she said, are the 67 events they've planned this summer, the new tenants they've attracted to a downtown that 20 years ago was 70 percent vacant. "And the young people are coming back," Cerutti said. This town doesn't keep many young people -- as the mining and manufacturing jobs have gone, those who don't join the armed forces tend to seek opportunities elsewhere.
What's her reaction to the photos from Abu Ghraib?
"That's got to stop," she said briskly. "We've got to balance what the Iraqis have done to our kids."
Then, after the event schedule was handed out and she'd said goodbye, she added, her smile slipping, "There's just this feeling -- bring them back, just let the Iraqis duke it out.
"My heart aches. For the parents, and the kids."