For a handful of families across the Washington are, the tense wait for news of hostages taken here yesterday had a special significance - their husbands, wives or parents had not been heard from and may have been held.
"I'm just sitting here hoping," Abe Herson said last night in a telephone interview at this home. His wife is a secretary at the B'nal B'rith headquarters, one of three places gunmen seized hostages.
"What can I say?" asked Diane Grip, wife of Alan Grip, an aide to City Council Chariman Steling Tucker, Mrs. Grip said she had not heard from her husband all day.
"I don't know any more than I'm hearing on news reports," she said from her Potomac home last night, hours after the siege of the District Building began.
"At first I couldn't believe it was happening," she said. "You're so shocked at first that it doesn't sink in." But, she added, "in the last few hours it has."
Bernard Shevitz, whose wife works at B'nai B'rith was at home in Silver Spring with their three children "watching the news and keeping our fingers crossed."
Shevitz, who works the night shift at the Government Printing Office, was asleep about 1 p.m. when a friend called with the news.
He said he tried to reach his wife, administrative assistant to the executive vice president, but he was not successful.
"I haven't been able to get in touch," he said. "Nobody answers. I tried 50 times, 100 times . . . I called the police, the communications center . . . the information centers . . .
"I'm sitting here with my children," he told a reporter. "They're kind of upset."
Both Shevitz and Herson said they had decided to wait for news at home.
Herson said he had been at work at of the hostage incident and went home. Manhattan Auto wheh he heard news
"I didn't tell my boss anything," he said. "I just left."
He said one of his sons had gone to the B'nai B'rith headquarters on Rhode Island Avenue NW when he learned the news, but could find out nothing. "There's no use me going down," he said.
However, in the evening relatives of some persons held at B'nai B'rith were assembled a few blocks away in the Foundry United Methodist Church on 16th Street NW.
At about 6:20 p.m. a woman entered, holding a piece of paper and announced that some hostages had been released. She called out names.
"Mr. Klein," she called out to one man. "Mr. Klein, your wife has been released."
Uncertainty was a major ingredient of the day's tense waiting.
Many husbands and wives knew their spouses worked in the three buildings where hostages were being held. But it was difficult to determine who was an actual hostage and who may have been out of range of the gunmen, but unable to move or even to reach a telephone.
At one point in the afternoon, Mrs. Julian Dugas, wife of the city administrator, reported she didn't know where her husband was.
"I really don't know," she said. "I'm just sitting here waiting . . . Just trying to be calm. That's all. Just trying to be calm . . . "
At the home of Council Chairman Tucker a friend answered the telephone and said Mrs. Tucker had heard nothing.
She's "just sitting and waiting," the friend said . Tucker was later reported safe; he was never a hostage.
One person reported to be a hostage was Rabbi Norman Frimer, international director of the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation.
Mrs. Frimer said that by 4 p.m. she had received calls from her two sons in Israel who had heard of the incident.
In Potomac, Mrs. Grip said one of her concerns was that her parents who live in New Jersey and her husband's widowed mother who lives in Pennsylvania would learn of the incident.
"I'm just hoping she's tired and won't hear the evening news when she returns from work," Mrs. Grip said.
She said she had not told her 5-year-old son of the incident.
"He's been out playing," she said "I don't know what I'll tell him."
In Silver Spring, Herson was unsure last night whether his wife was being held at gunpoint.
According to the original report he received, his wife and about 10 other persons had barricaded themselves in an office away from the gunmen. But he said he had heard nothing since, except for a report that more hostages might have been taken.
He said he had heard a report that food had been supplied by the gunman to the hostages.
Of his wife, he said: "I hope she's not near the gunmen and doesn't get any food."