Pronounced healthy in body and eager to get home, about two dozen wives and children of State Department employees who escaped from Kuwait and Iraq this week were briefed, counseled, examined and sent on their way from a Rosslyn hotel yesterday.
Scattering to their local homes or airports, the camera-shy dependents who had arrived at Andrews Air Force Base on Tuesday night either slipped out of the Westpark Hotel unseen or declined to answer questions from reporters camped out in the lobby since 5 a.m.
Luz Marina Colwell, wife of U.S. Consul William Colwell, said it was a "very up and down" day for the families.
"We're all happy to be here," she said in an interview. "We're all sad we have people left behind."
Colwell said she and others did not want to talk publicly about their experiences or the current situation because virtually all of the returning families left husbands, fathers or grown sons behind.
"You have to understand our situation," she said. "It's very difficult. We have a lot of people left behind. We have to be very discreet . . . . The only thing you can say is: Let's pray the whole crisis will end in peace. And then we can get on with our normal lives."
Colwell's son, Andrew, 10, encountered a pair of television camera crews in the hotel parking garage and briefly described some frightening times in Kuwait.
"I was real scared one time," Andrew said. "I was in my house and a bomb went off close to our house and it shook the house."
It's been a harrowing trip for the 20 women and 27 children, who were allowed out of Iraq but had to leave behind the men. After a journey through the desert terrain of Kuwait and Iraq to Turkey, the group of 47 finally arrived at Andrews Tuesday night, haggard and happy.
About 20 of the dependents stayed at the Westpark Hotel, and yesterday were briefed, given cash, helped with housing and provided counseling and medical care. The State Department doctor who examined the families would not give specifics, but said, "They're all doing fine."
Robert Stephens, the department's evacuation coordinator, told reporters in the morning that several dependents wanted to speak with the press. However, no family members emerged to talk publicly and Stephens said they all changed their minds because they were eager to get home.
"If you'd been traveling with kids throughout a country as unstable as Iraq -- it's an ordeal," he said.
Among the weary travelers was 8-month-old Jadiz Armbruster, called "J.J." by her family.
Wearing a blue-and-white striped jumpsuit, J.J. rode peacefully in a baby carriage as her grandmother, Miriam Logan, took her for a morning stroll near the hotel yesterday.
J.J. traveled from the Middle East without relatives because her father, William Armbruster, stayed behind. Her mother, Lisa Armbruster, who was in the United States to undergo surgery when Iraq invaded Kuwait Aug. 2, greeted J.J. at Andrews.
"I'm a grateful" grandmother, said Logan, who flew from Kansas City to meet the plane. "They all did a wonderful job bringing them back."
"I'm not hungry," Logan said, imitating what she believed J.J. was thinking. "Just besieged."