Kathy Collier stuck close to her Buena Park home Saturday, not wanting to miss the news. She never wandered too far from the television set. She barely took time to slip out for a few minutes to go to the grocery store.
And like clockwork, just as Collier expected, the invasion began. Right around dinner time in Orange County, U.S.-led ground forces began heading into Kuwait. Her son, Darrin, was going to war.
"The next few days ahead are going to be difficult ones," Collier said. "It's going to be a matter of not knowing, just a matter of sitting and waiting. And doing a lot of praying."
Prayers for the soldiers, support for President Bush and some doubts and opposition were among the reactions Saturday night in Southern California to news that the allied ground campaign to liberate Kuwait had begun.
"They gave (Saddam Hussein) six or seven months to get out of there," Keith Obymako said as he left a Red Robin Restaurant in Costa Mesa. "There's no getting around it. If they had accepted all of his conditions, he'd just be back in a few months."
But Jarvis DuBois, a Santa Ana college student entering the restaurant, said, "I'm proud to be an American, but this is the one time that I am embarrassed by what we are doing." And Tony Fraze of Tustin declared: "It's sad, very sad. I just hate to see all of those boys get killed over oil."
Jaunita Spheeris, 71, a Santa Monica bartender, was dressing for work when the television program she was watching was interrupted by the announcement.
"The first thing I did was call my son and I wanted to know if he was listening," she said. "And I was praying for the folks over there, both sides. I feel so sorry for them all." As she left her house, she taped a large yellow ribbon on her shirt.
Artist Alan Bistry of Los Angeles' Wilshire district, watching public television when the news came, had an adverse reaction.
"It is a horrible mistake," he said. "The military was just aching for a battle. I think it is appalling that all the governments in the world could not prevent this war." He said he could not bear to watch television any longer and planned to go out for a drink.
At Camp Pendleton, Arlene Pitchford, the wife of Staff Sgt. Lavantes Pitchford who is deployed in the battle area with the 1st Marine Division, was worried. She said of the ground campaign: "It's something we knew would have to happen. I'm just hoping and praying nobody knocks on my door with the wrong type of news. Right now, my feelings are just to get it over with. Just do it, so we're not sitting on the edge of our seats, wondering, 'Is my husband coming home?' "
Then, Pitchford put her two children into bed and turned her attention again to the news.
Shannon--another Camp Pendleton Marine wife, who wanted only her first name used--said, "I'm sort of glad it's started. I know my husband's coming back. I just know it."
Californians--famous and not, activists and not--expressed strong emotions Saturday night.
Former Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown said he had believed for some time that "it would be far better to pause and boycott the Iraqis, rather than to risk the lives of any of our soldiers." But the news of the ground war was not a surprise, he added. "I didn't see any way out of it. I could see there was no alternative after the President gave his ultimatum."
Los Angeles City Council President John Ferraro, who was watching a USC basketball game when the program was interrupted, said of the Iraqis: "I'm disappointed that they didn't accept the U.S. ultimatum. Doing it the Soviet way would have left Iraq at full strength and we'd have had to leave troops over there for years to come. So I can understand the President's concern to move ahead."
Muzammil Siddiqi, director of the Islamic Society of Orange County, said President Bush should have given diplomacy more of a chance. "Things are just becoming worse and worse," Siddiqi said. "I thought the (Soviet) proposal was a golden opportunity that was lost and it's very unfortunate. The more this war goes on, the more innocent lives will be lost. I can only pray that it stops soon."
Two Arab-American leaders also criticized the U.S. action.
Ahmed Nassef, with the Los Angeles Coalition Against U.S. Intervention in the Middle East, said he was shocked "at the news that the President has rejected all attempts at a peaceful settlement and has opted for ground war that will result in the loss of thousands of American and Iraqi lives because of the defense of a Kuwaiti king who does not represent his own people."
In Northern California, Carol El-Shaieb, president of the Arab-American Democratic Club of Santa Clara County, said of the news: "I hate it. I didn't think the whole war had to happen. . . . I really don't know if we're going to run into a lot of resistance or if most of those fellows (the Iraqi soldiers) are dead. . . . I think it's going to have very bad repercussions for the U.S. in the Arab world in the long term."