Some families of the 40 American hostages in Lebanon yesterday reacted with anger and disappointment to President Reagan's plan to wait out the captors, but a television interview with the imprisoned crew of the hijacked airliner gave them some encouragement.
In Indianapolis, the tearful mother of hostage James Hoskins Jr., 22, beseeched Reagan for reassurance that everything was being done to win the hostages' release and that he would not do anything to prompt reprisals against them.
White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan met with five members of the Hoskins family for about 20 minutes during his trip to Indianapolis yesterday before the president joined them briefly, he told reporters afterward. The meeting, held at the family's request, took place backstage at the city's convention center where Reagan addressed the Jaycees.
The president reassured the family that he is mindful of the hostages' safety and that "not only will we try, but we're also praying for them," Regan said.
The president's appearance at a nationally televised news conference Tuesday night had provided little comfort, many family members said.
"It was very disheartening to hear the president say there's no way he's going to negotiate, but I think he has his reasons," said John Palmer Jr., 21, son of a hostage from Little Rock, Ark. "I don't like what he's doing right now but, well, I just hope he's going to do something that works out."
Palmer, an agricultural student at Arkansas Technical University in Russellville, and his brother, Jim, a hospital employe in Monticello, are urging hostages' families to send telegrams to Reagan asking him to press the Israelis for the release of hundreds of Shiite prisoners.
"The word has gotten out," he said, and a number of people have contacted him to indicate support.
The family of Ralf Traugott, 32, of Lunenburg, Mass., said they sent the president a telegram that said, "We must insist you expedite the release of Israeli-held prisoners. We want action right now."
The Shiite hijackers have demanded the release of more than 700 Shiite prisoners held by the Israelis. The president said Tuesday night that the United States "will never make concessions to terrorists" and will refrain from retaliation while the captives are held, but will play a waiting game.
Paul Hill, 33, son of hostage Peter W. Hill, 57, of Hoffman Estates, Ill., called the president's appearance "another B-movie."
"Reagan is playing politics while my father is over there, and damn it, I want him safe and I want him home," Hill told the Chicago Tribune.
"I'm sitting here kind of stunned and sick," said Kathleen Flanagan, whose father, Raymond Johnson, 62, of Aurora, Ill., is a hostage. "I just don't want to see my father be a martyr . . . . It didn't seem he [Reagan] really sensed the hostages came first. He's beginning to not even call them hostages anymore."
Some hostages' families, despite their expressed frustration and exhaustion, were less critical.
Loretta McLoughlin, 72, of Deerfield, Ill., a former hostage whose son, Father James McLoughlin, is still captive, said Reagan's statements made her "feel bad that he can't do something."
Asked if she would support U.S. retaliation against those responsible for the hijacking, she said, "I don't know. My son's bishop said yesterday we should have it in our hearts to forgive."
Vie Carlson, 59, mother of hostage Kurt Carlson of Rockford, Ill., said, "My heart goes out to President Reagan. I would so hate to be in his position."
But she added, "It's not a big deal for Reagan to ask Israel for a favor."
A relative of William Darras of Chicago, who wished not to be identified, spoke only a few words on the telephone before she burst into tears and hung up.
The families' grim vigil was brightened yesterday morning when the hijackers summoned an ABC camera crew onto the Beirut airfield for an interview with three crewmen still aboard the plane.
Capt. John Testrake, 57, of Richmond, Mo., said the crew did not know where the other hostages, about 40 Americans, have been taken but said they were told the others have "been taken to a safe place, that they are comfortable and being well taken care of."
The first flight engineer, Benjamin C. Zimmermann, 45, of Cascade, Idaho, sent greetings to his family, including his 88-year-old father, unaware that the man had died of a heart attack on Saturday.