In the waning months of the Civil War, Union forces almost burned down the Fayette County Courthouse, diverted at the town square by a flag-waving lawyer who convinced the troops that he was a bigger threat than the building.

Now the courthouse is the site of a different sort of battle. In a second-floor office of the aging building, the president of Fayette County's development authority is trying to prevent this aviation-friendly county's economic engine from sputtering now that its biggest employer, Delta Air Lines Inc., has filed for bankruptcy protection.

On Brian Cardoza's desk sits the resume of a 32-year veteran Delta mechanic, one of thousands of airline employees and retirees seeing an uncertain future from this tree-lined county a half-hour south of Atlanta.

When Delta sneezed, this county of about 100,000 used to come down with a cold. After the company filed for bankruptcy two weeks ago, Cardoza was one of the officials pressured to make sure it doesn't flat line.

It's no small task in a county where 3,500 are employed by Delta and as many as 15 percent of residents have some tie to the aviation industry.

Businesses are already feeling the burn. In nearby Peachtree City, shops that took off as the nearby Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport boomed are suddenly seeing less foot traffic. Some, such as the Plumyumi Day Spa, are offering discounts to Delta families to keep business humming.

In Fayetteville, the county seat, commercial sales-tax receipts have dropped by about 3.5 percent since Delta's turbulence began.

The city's leadership -- the mayor and three of the five council members have Delta ties -- is also trying to do its part. City Manager Joe Morton said the city has reduced its budget growth to below 1 percent, less than the rate of inflation.

The bankruptcy filing was a long-dreaded day for Mayor Ken Steele, a former Delta pilot. Like others, he knew Delta had struggled since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and had heard rumors the airline would file as early as last year, but he still held out hope.

"The most significant thing is the psyche of the community," he said. "Delta has been a big family, and when one hurts, we all hurt."

He presides over a city that has boomed with construction as Atlanta's airport became the world's busiest.

"This is not a factory town," he said.

At the courthouse, Cardoza and his assistant are busy posting online a steady trickle of resumes and job skill qualifications from nervous Delta employees and Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Only a few days after filing for bankruptcy, the airline announced that it will eliminate as many as 9,000 more jobs -- about 17 percent of its remaining workforce -- and slash pay for many employees.

"I wish there was something we could do," Cardoza said. "But you let the market drive things. With the announcement of more job cuts and pay cuts, our focus will be on those who lose their jobs or decide to find a different job."

Over the past few decades, Fayetteville and the surrounding county have emerged as among the more desirable suburbs of Atlanta, acclaimed for their quality of life and quality schools. McMansions have sprouted alongside aging subdivisions, spurring historic downtown streets named Beauregard, Lee and Jeff Davis.

"In the late '60s and '70s, Fayette County was considered a bedroom community for the airport," said John Lynch, the town's historian. "Now, we have so many people from so many areas."

On the edge of town, the Fayette Pavilion, a massive shopping complex, is full of big-box retailers. The Pavilion's receipts have taken a slight hit since Delta's filing, Morton said, but it's the restaurants, gyms and novelty stores that may suffer the most.

At Fayette Collectibles, an antique mart off Stonewall Avenue, owner Jean Johnson has sold porcelain figures, cutouts of NASCAR legends and assorted memorabilia for 15 years. Even the building's bathroom is crammed with merchandise.

Since Delta stumbled, fewer folks have ambled through the building's narrow hallways on a hunt for quirky antiques.

"This is as bad as I've ever seen it," Johnson said. "We'll be making some decisions soon as to whether we stay in business. I don't see much hope. It's really depressing to us."

Standing outside a sprawling field of dirt waiting to sprout houses priced above $250,000, Steele took stock of the situation. He said his job is to be an enabler, a facilitator for business in town. And he's relentlessly upbeat about his city's future.

"We've got big plans. The bad times will pass," he said. "Yep, this, too, shall pass."

Still, he said with a shrug, "In Chapter 11, there are no winners."

Fayetteville is the seat of Fayette County, where about 15 percent of the residents have ties to the aviation industry.Ken Steele, mayor of Fayetteville, Ga., had long dreaded a bankruptcy filing from Delta Air Lines Inc.