Despite some grousing about wearing the same clothes for two days, not having their hair dryers and the like, hotel guests displaced by weekend explosions and fires at the Washington Hilton remained upbeat.
Most of the hotel's 3,800 guests are in town for a Christian youth convention. They were taken to the Hilton last night in groups to collect their luggage in a shuttle operation that was expected to last until the early morning hours, and were then to be put up in 24 hotels in the city.
Colleen Hicks, 15, of Houston, said her greatest concern was that lacking her hair dryer, she had been unable to wash her hair. "They treated us the best they could, but we want our clothes back," she said.
Late yesterday afternoon, respite came in the form of an official announcement at the Washington Convention Center to the 3,700 youths and their chaperones that they would be allowed back into the Hilton in groups to retrieve their belongings. Most had not been permitted to enter their hotel rooms since Saturday morning.
The announcement was greeted with loud applause as conventiongoers rose to their feet to cheer and whistle.
Some of the teen-agers saw powerful forces at work in the hotel explosion and the confusion that followed.
"It's frustrating but I know I'm in good hands because God's on our side all the way," said Troy Sauvageau, 17, of Minneapolis. "Satan's really trying to ruin this for all of us but he can't."
"It doesn't bother me much," said Paul Richman, 15, of Houston. "God is watching out for all of us."
Rosie Watts, of Wellington, Kan., a chaperone, said she walked into the auditorium of the Convention Center yesterday just as conference organizers announced that there had been a second explosion at the Hilton and that they would not be able to return to their rooms last night. "When I heard that," said Watts, "there was almost a third explosion."
For some, the adventure of last-minute arrangements and organizational chaos seemed to outweigh the small hardships brought by their dislocation.
Rob Jordan, 18, of Houston, said he didn't mind the inconvenience and said he'd just as soon stay at the Convention Center all night with his friends than trek to a hotel. "If you ask me, I'd rather stay here," he said.
"I'm just a little upset because I brought three changes of clothes and haven't been able to change yet," said Ted Cruz, 14, also of Houston.
Sean O'Brien, a chaperone and bus driver for 53 of the Youth Congress '85 participants, was walking near the Hilton when Sunday's explosion occurred. He was hoping to get the keys to his group's bus so they could use it for a tour of the city.
"It looks like we are going to do our whole tour on foot," said O'Brien before hearing the news that the guests would be allowed to collect their luggage last night.
"I don't feel any more worn out now than I do after a day on the job, but that probably tells me more about the way I work than the situation here. God is here to help us work this out and everything will be fine," said David Liefeld of Milwaukee, an escort for a group of the youths.
"I think the city is lucky that this happened to this group. Other groups would have abused the privileges given to us," said Charlie Arsenault of St. Louis, a chaperone for 15 conferees and pastor for West County Assembly of God Church in St. Louis.
Those privileges included hotel and meal tabs picked up by the Hilton.
About half of the displaced guests spent Saturday night at four hotels -- the Shoreham, Mayflower, Sheraton Washington and Washington Plaza. The rest were split up among 15 others.
"I had to bring in extra staff to handle it," said David Philp, the manager on duty this weekend at the Ramada Renaissance, which accommodated 140 Hilton guests in about 70 rooms.
"All the hotels work together when we have a problem," said Harold Johnson, assistant manager of the Hotel Washington, which took in about 85 Hilton guests.
While some of the youngsters waited at the Convention Center until after midnight Saturday, a group of 45 adults with the Youth Congress was shuttled to the Hilton to gather any emergency medication that may have been left in their rooms. The adults were escorted two at a time to various rooms by Hilton employes, who used flashlights to navigate their way through the dark hallways. Because the elevators were out of service, the adults used stairways.
On Sunday, the displaced conferees were instructed to return to the Convention Center at 4:30 p.m., where they were fed at the Hilton's expense, and waited until they could return to the Hilton last night to pick up luggage for a long-awaited change of clothing.
After collecting their bags, the conventiongoers were to return to the hotels to which they had been relocated. Staff writers Lee Hockstader, Barbara Carton and Mark Katches contributed to this report.