After 42 days and 42 nights of war, Americans laughed and cried on hearing it was over. Or seemed to be. As emotions tumbled across the country in a giant wave of relief, some held on to a touch of doubt, just in case.
"All of us have waited for this moment," said Barbara Gaines, of Anderson, S.C., the mother of Air Force Sgt. Robert L. Gaines Jr. "I'm jumping up and down inside."The moment was delivered by President Bush on television Wednesday night. "This is a victory for the United Nations," Bush told the world. "For all mankind, for the rule of law and for what is right."
It came 100 hours after the ground offensive began, six weeks after the war started and a brief eternity since Aug. 2, 1990, when Iraq invaded its neighbor, Kuwait, setting war in motion.
"I can't stop crying," Matilda Cummings of Savannah, Ga., whose husband is with the 165th Supply Company of the Georgia National Guard. "I got down on my knees and I thanked Jesus. There is a God. I know it now."
Cautious voices were heard, especially from military spouses. One was Greta Gordon of Hinesville, Ga. Her husband, Sgt. Charles Gordon, is in the gulf with the Army's 24th Infantry (Mechanized) Division.
"I'm one who won't take it seriously until I actually see it happen," Gordon said. "I want to see these soldiers home. When I see my husband, I'll believe it. It's been a long time. We've had our hopes up too many times."
For other people, though, the war brought certainties large and small.
"I'm pregnant and I'm thinking of naming the baby `Stormin' Norman,' " in honor of gulf war commander Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf, said Capt. Kay Richardson, family assistance officer for the Nebraska National Guard in Omaha.
"I couldn't be prouder right now of being an American," said Chicago artist Bill Stebbins. He and his wife, Mikki Appleton, stopped their pool game in a downtown Chicago bar to whistle and applaud Bush's speech.
Thundering applause filled Madison Square Garden in New York City when peace was announced during the hockey game between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers. Fans stood for an ovation and chanted "USA, USA."
More reflective were the thoughts of people like the Rev. George Clements, pastor of Chicago's Holy Angels Church. "I'm pleasantly surprised it was over this quickly. Our prayers have been answered," said the Roman Catholic cleric. "I hope and pray now that when the African-American troops come back, they'll be able to come back to more opportunities for education and employment than when they left," Clements said.
"We are depressed. We are angry. We are sad," said Howard Emmer, a spokesman for Pledge of Resistance, a Chicago anti-war group. "We think tens of thousand civilians in Iraq just died and (it was) not for peace."
"The country is so rah-rah about winning this war," Emmer said, "but what about the homeless?"
For some Arab-Americans, the war's end is bittersweet. "Everybody should welcome peace. To err is human, to forgive is divine," said Munir Bayoud, a member of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee in Dallas. "If there is something to forgive, President Bush should forgive and show he is worthy to be the leader of this new world order," said Bayoud, a native of Lebanon.