"In the end, military decisions have to be made in cold blood," Pitney said. "Decisions made in the heat of anger are likely to be mistaken."
Not everyone is out for blind vengeance. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) said her constituents have urged restraint. "It's a pretty consistent theme of caution, of not wanting us to respond out of revenge, but out of security," Capps said. "They hope we don't drop a lot of bombs right away."
Rep. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) has noticed a calmer tone creeping into the voices of callers just since last week. "Initially, we saw a lot of people crying and people wringing their hands and saying, 'Oh goodness, what is befalling us?' " she said. "Now, people are taking the time to think things through, and then put them down on paper."
The goal now, say many in Washington, is to let reason prevail, even as bodies continue to be pulled from the rubble in New York and at the Pentagon.
"A lot of people are concerned that we don't overreact and kill women and children in a broad attack on Palestinians or Muslims," said Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), who lost several business acquaintances in the World Trade Center attack. "We're angry, and we're hurt and we want to get even, but I think [constituents are] depending on government to be rational and more precise in our strike back."
Barabak reported from Los Angeles and Fiore from Washington. Times staff writers Michael Finnegan, Sue Fox, Eric Lichtblau, Paul Richter, Louis Sahagun and Richard Simon contributed to this story.