On the first full day of the Gulf War, it seemed that everyone in the Washington area was talking about the same thing.

In schools, workplaces, hospitals, Metro stations, restaurants and bars, Washingtonians were riveted by war. How long will it last? How many Americans will die? Will there be terrorist attacks? Was President Bush right to take the nation to war?

The initial flood of emotions -- shock, grief, resignation -- that came with Wednesday night's news of the U.S.-led attack on Iraq was beginning yesterday to give way to sober reflection. Some were hopeful and relieved because of early military reports. Some were fearful of retaliation and terrorism. Others remained angry and critical of the president, and worried that America eventually would pay a price for its role in the hostilities.

Here are some voices from around the area:

'We Had to Stop Him'

Three people standing in Lafayette Square began a spontaneous debate about the war yesterday afternoon.

"We had to stop him, but I don't think we had to bomb. People are being killed," said Peter Bezanson, 18, who had skipped classes at St. John's College in Annapolis to come to the park.

"How can you bomb and not have people killed?" asked tour guide Ezra Zahavi, 55, an American citizen born in what is now Israel.

Jennifer Campbell, 21, a student at the University of Maryland, adamantly opposed Bush's decision to strike. "We will be punished," she said.

Pride Mixed With Anxiety

At Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Northwest Washington, they were proud, because they are members of the American military and the American military seemed to be doing so well. They were a tad nervous, because they all know someone stationed over there. And they were, by and large, certain this war would end swiftly.

"We planned for this for five months and our overwhelming technological advantage is showing up," said Spec. Dennis Lockhart, 35, of Raleigh, N.C., who works in health and radiological physics. "It's a bit more than the Iraqis bargained for . . . . I'm proud the men have done their jobs so well. It just reflects the training that they've had. The volunteer army is the best army we've ever had."

'This Ain't Like the Movies'

"I think Saddam Hussein is crazy, and when he gets us back, he is going to get us good," Andrea Moore, a junior at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince George's County, said during ROTC class. "It just scares me to death because when he says he is going to get us back, you know that he is not just fooling around."

In a nearby history class, another junior, Ramell Royal, expressed his fears in a different way:

"We have all seen these romantic pictures of war in movies and on TV and stuff. But this war isn't like World War II or even Vietnam. Hussein is talking about using chemical weapons. He has nuclear power. This ain't like the movies."

Bush's Speech Persuasive

Until Bush's speech Wednesday night, Annandale lawyer Tim McGary had favored giving sanctions more time before using American military force against Iraq. "But then I realized what the Iraqis were doing to the Kuwaiti citizens," said McGary, who was eating at the Havabite Eatery in Fairfax City, where a black-and-white television set hummed with news about the gulf war. "Someone said it's like grabbing a bully in a schoolyard. You've just got to take him down while you have him." Still, McGary said, he was sad. "If we have to go to a ground campaign, a lot of people will die."

Jack Chapman, an intake officer in Fairfax Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, sat nearby, reflecting somewhat different thoughts. He said he had watched the news throughout the night. "I was pretty upset about it. I was in Vietnam. I had a chance to see what war is all about. I'm still upset. I was hoping it could be averted."

Shocked Into Reality

At the Quantico Marine Base's Command Post Pub, Matt Effinger sat with two buddies a few steps from a recruiting poster with the inscription: The Marines Are Looking for a Few Good Men.

"When you are in peacetime, it's easy to think of the military as a job and you get a little lazy sometimes," said Effinger, 21, of Wadesville, Indiana. "I think that now everybody realizes that things can change overnight. {War} may be an entire world away. But now you realize that it could be you. It's shocked everybody back into reality about what it means to be a Marine."

Terror Rumor Hits School

From locker to locker, a rumor spread that Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County was on a short list of possible targets for terrorists.

"It started out about two days ago, and it kind of limped around. But today, of course, with all the events, it spread like wildfire," said Assistant Principal Leon Hawkins.

Hawkins said the rumor probably started because someone misconstrued a television report earlier this week that hospitals and technology schools would be particularly vulnerable targets for terrorists.

"It's a little absurd," he said, "and even arrogant to suppose that we, as a high school, would be on the list with the White House."