Shane Crandall, a blonde, 10-year-old clad in a "Hang Ten" ski jacket, pushed his way through a forest of elbows on Pennsylvania Avenue yesterday to join in the thunderous welcome for the 53 former hostages.
"I was mad enough to go to war against Iran if we had to . . . I don't feel good about the way they were treated," Crandall said, as he joined the onlookers near the White House chanting "U -- S -- A," and "You've come a long way, baby."
Although many public schools were unable to arrange bus trips to downtown Washington on such short notice, the students from Mildred Frazier's private Kenwood School in Fairfax were more fortunate. Crandal and 19 other second, third and fourth grade students yesterday jammed into a van decorated with a yellow, hand-painted "Welcome Home" sign that all the school's students had signed and started for the motorcade route.
As the students headed into the city, their emotions ranged from disbelief to dismay, from joy to sympathy. "I'm really glad you're back," shouted 9-year-old Dulcy Wenting, a fourth grader. "Why did they have to take our people just because the shah was here? He was just a good friend of ours. I really feel sorry for them [the former hostages]."
The girls sported a variety of yellow ribbons in their hair, fashioned from knitting yarn and gift wrapping. The boys taped their yellow ribbons and bows on their sport coats.
But as the former hostages neared, many discovered that it wasn't going to be easy to watch the motorcade from the perspective of people who are barely 4 feet tall.
"I keep getting squished and pushed around and people are standing on my feet," moaned Suzanne Weeden, a 9-year-old, who was on the verge of tears until a stranger boosted her onto his shoulders.
Others seemed more excited by the Park Police's horses, the television cameras, and the sleek Porshe sports cars that some of the boys spotted. "There's Channel 4," squealed one youth. ". . . Ooh, I've got to get on TV."
If an Iranian ever showed up at his school, 10-year-old John Sawyer said he would know what to do. "Check him for guns," Sawyer replied without missing a beat.
What about former president Jimmy Carter? "He did a so-so job," said Sawyer.
Yesterday's pagentry was not lost on the students. "If I could, I would make sure to give them [former hostages] lots of parades like this," said 8-year-old Donna Kennedy. "I'm really glad they're home. We missed them." 8
Seven-year-old Joshua Birch, however, questioned all the fanfare. "I'd just send them away with their moms and dads," said Birch. "I'd just give them some time to themselves."
None of the students was at a loss to offer an opinion on or details of the former hostages' 14 1/2-month ordeal, something that most said they had followed almost nightly on television. If they had a complaint about the TV coverage, it was that most of the crisis specials had come on too late at night for them to watch.
Yesterday the students praised the abortive "Desert One" rescue attempt that left eight servicemen dead. Said 9-year-old Jimmy Acosta: "I'm glad they tried it. After they died, the Iranians put some of their bodies on poles and jeered . . . . I didn't like that. It was terrible."
"I'm grateful that we tried [the resuce attempt]," echoed Carrie Van, 8.
"It was important for them [the former hostages] to know that we tried."
"If I had a chance to talk with them, I'd say 'Aren't you glad you aren't over there anymore?,'" said fourth grader Joshua Steele. "I wish they could have been with their families. They've probably missed a whole lot."
While most of the students expressed anger at the way the hostages had been treated, 7-year-old Eric Garnak parted with his classmates over whether the United States should have gone to war with Iran. "That's crazy," he said. "I was real angry about it, but I didn't feel like having a war with Iran. Fighting them wouldn't have been worth it," Garnak said.
If they'd switched places with the hostages, what would they miss most? "I'd miss everything . . . school most of all," said second grader Jennifer Marcus as she glanced at her instructor. "It's report card time," the teacher said, winking.
"I'd miss going on trips to Nebraska and Kansas, cartoons, the Artari video game and my cat, 'Scruffy,'" said Jeff West, another second grader.
Kay Williamson's class recently wrote papers on what the children would do if they were held hostage. A second grader named Shannon had a simple explanation: "I would sock those crepes in the face . . . I mean the person that is holding me hostage."
Mildred Frazier, headmistress of the private Kenwood and Grasshopper Green schools in the Annandale section of Fairfax, said that "Every class wanted to go," but there was room for only 20 students on the school's green van.
By the time the squadron of Metrobuses had deposited the former hostages and their families on the White house lawn, Kenwood's Jimmy Acosta had his mind on Hollywood.
"I'm a movie star, I was on Channel 4 once and on ABC twice and one of the hostages waved at me," Acosta said.
But Dulcy Wenting had forgotten about being shoved around by the crowd. "Can we pet the horsies now?" she asked.