Miss. Town Holds Vigil for Kidnapped Contractor

Friends and neighbors of an American civilian taken hostage in Iraq gathered Sunday for a vigil outside the county courthouse, many wearing yellow ribbons and scrawling notes of support for his family after a morning deadline imposed by his abductors passed.

Thomas Hamill (search), 43, was snatched Friday by gunmen who attacked a fuel convoy he was guarding, the latest in a string of kidnappings in Iraq.

"I'm just praying," his grandmother, Vera Hamill, said Sunday.

Hamill works for the Houston-based engineering and construction company Kellogg, Brown & Root, a division of Halliburton (search), his wife, Kellie, told The Associated Press.

His captors threatened to kill him unless U.S. troops ended their assault on the city of Fallujah (search). The deadline passed Sunday morning with no word on Hamill's fate.

Several hundred residents gathered for a night vigil outside the Noxubee County Court House.

"We're just all pulling together for this man," said Mayor Dorothy Baker Hines.

A Halliburton official left Hamill's house Sunday evening without commenting.

Vera Hamill said Halliburton officials asked the family not to talk to the media, fearing they might say something that could jeopardize her grandson's safety.

In a videotape of Hamill, broadcast Saturday on the Arab TV station Al-Jazeera, his expression was calm but wary. A voice-over read by an Al-Jazeera announcer quoted Hamill as saying he was being treated well.

"I am in good shape," the voice-over quoted him as saying. "I hope to return home one day, and I want my family to know that these people are taking care of me, and provide me with food, water and a place to sleep."

Hamill went to Iraq last September as a truck driver for Kellogg, Brown and Root, his wife said.

"I don't really know anything, we don't know anything. ... Prayers are all we need right now," Kellie Hamill told The Commercial Dispatch of Columbus, Miss., in a telephone interview Saturday. "I'm doing about as good as can be expected under the circumstances."

The news of his capture hit hard in the small community, where friends say almost everyone knew Hamill.

Lamar White, who owns a country store, said he has known Hamill his whole life and described him as a "good guy," a family man with a young son and daughter.

Hamill was in the store about two weeks ago when he was home on emergency leave during his wife's open-heart surgery. At the time, they talked about Hamill's experiences in Iraq.

"He said it wasn't bad over there once you got used to it," White said. "He said it just takes a while to get adjusted but when you do it's all right."

Marion Gilbertson, 75, a longtime Macon resident, said her church dedicated their Easter service to Hamill.

"Instead of having regular service, we prayed for him," she said. "This is a small town. It hits us hard. God bless him, he's just trying to make a living for his family."