Here are some voices you haven't heard from America's latest hostage crisis:

The squeaky voice of a hostage daughter named Jackie: "Dear Daddy. I really miss you and I hope you come home soon. We really need you. I wiggled and wiggled and I lost my teeth. We have an answering machine and call-forwarding." The wistful tones of a hostage wife, who taped this message the other day, in hopes that her husband will hear: "Don, I've been painting the house, daubing it here and daubing it there. Just waiting for you to finish it off, as usual."

A hostage wife named Susan: "Hello, Bill. . . . Well, Vanessa started standing without holding onto anything. She thinks she can walk around. She has no teeth and still doesn't sleep through the night. I think she's waiting for you to get home. . . . Your bank sent the money, which we needed desperately, but we don't have money for a house and no one would give me the mortgage anyway. We're all praying for you."

If this was a decade ago, and these were families of hostages in Iran, they and their anguishing loneliness likely would get top billing on the nightly news and in the thoughts of millions of Americans. Today, they are hardly heard from -- preempted by the nation's fear of war, the presence of more than 200,000 troops in the Saudi Arabian desert and, it seems, a growing national numbness to hostage-taking since its horrifying premiere in Tehran 11 years ago.

The only way to hear these voices now is to go to the Southwest Washington headquarters of Voice of America, and sit by a phone recently set up for hostage relatives wishing to tape messages to hundreds of spouses, children and parents held in Iraq and Kuwait. The VOA, which usually broadcasts to foreigners about America, has been airing messages to hostages on its Middle East broadcasts since Oct. 4. VOA officials said they receive up to 50 messages a day.

It is hard to listen to the voices -- cracking, pausing, gamely carrying on -- without wondering at the relative absence of public attention to hostage families this time around, even given the threat of war. The variety of accents, the tiny voices mixed with aging, throaty ones, the talk of everything from corn harvests to the "poor Red Sox" illustrates that this hostage crisis truly spans the population.

A State Department official attributed the relative public silence to awareness that the United States and other governments, with troops amassed in Saudi Arabia, are actively confronting Saddam Hussein, in contrast to a national sense of impotence in the Iran crisis.

But two pioneers in hostage crisis-management, President Jimmy Carter's press secretary, Jody Powell, and his State Department spokesman, Hodding Carter III, see something larger at work: a national mood swing, starting at the White House, born of hostage-takings from Tehran to Beirut to TWA Flight 847 and the Achille Lauro cruise ship.

President Carter, according to Hodding Carter, purposely made the Iran hostages his overriding priority. This time, with a war threat looming, President Bush has said that concern for the hostages will not dictate decisions that must be made in the national interest.

"Instead of the president setting a deliberate course that allows hostages to hold him hostage," Hodding Carter said, "this president has set out a deliberate, different idea -- that no president should do that. . . . I think most Americans {would say} they agree with that."

Since the Iran crisis, Powell observed, "We've had people held in Lebanon for years. We've had people murdered, executed and tortured. . . . It's become like killings in the ghetto. We've seen so many of them we've lost the capacity for outrage."

In the VOA messages, there are indications that many hostages are in contact with their families here -- through intermediaries and even the mail. A State Department spokeswoman confirmed that Iraq is in some cases allowing mail to go to and from the "guests," as Saddam calls the hostages.

The spokeswoman said State also knows that numerous hostages have heard their relatives' messages via VOA.

Mitigating factors aside, the voices still penetrate. A boy, sounding no more than 7 or 8, relates the thrill of dissecting a lamb. "I stuck a straw down the tubes and I blew and the lungs got really big. I liked it and I hope I can do it again. I love you."

A wife tells her husband that their daughter is pregnant with twins. "Yeah, for real babe, it's twins."

And this from a son: "Hello. It's Greg. Ninth grade is tough. I'm having trouble in English. Sure wish you were here. I hope this doesn't have to last too much longer."