Volunteers provide help at response center

Sept. 18, 2001 11:38 a.m.

For information about response center services and other resources, click here .

Princeton graduate student Tim Aubry spent much of Tuesday wondering if his sister, who works near the World Trade Center, was OK. That afternoon he learned that she was fine.

On Wednesday, he volunteered at the response center the University set up for those looking for information or help in dealing with Tuesday's tragic events.

"I felt like this was such a horrible catastrophe, and I wanted to do whatever I could personally to help people cope with it," he said.

Staffed with volunteers, the center is operating as a one-stop resource for staff, faculty and students. It provides information such as times of religious services, phone numbers of New York hospitals and assistance in making and paying for travel arrangements. Originally located in the Frist Campus Center's Multipurpose Room A, it moved on Thursday to the Center for Community Service in 246 Frist. It can be reached at 258-7700.

Jessie Washington, special projects manager for the Office of the Vice President for Campus Life, said the center has not been overwhelmed with calls so far, but the calls that are coming in cover a wide variety of topics.

"We have parents calling about their students. They may not have heard from them and are concerned," said Washington, who has called the master in a student's dorm to help track down a student. People are inquiring about blood donations, religious services and the Counseling Center. A graduate student who couldn't get back to his home in Manhattan on Tuesday called the center for help. A bed was found for him in the Graduate College.

Since the center opened on Tuesday, more than 100 graduate and undergraduate students have volunteered to answer phones and direct people to information. Staff members also have pitched in.

Paula Chow, director of the International Center, came to volunteer because "we need to help make sure students get any answers they need." Chow ended up talking to a graduate student who called the center because she was in California and unable to fly back to Princeton in time for the first day of classes on Thursday. Chow talked to her about arranging for a train ticket.

Aviva Bideaux, an employment secretary in the Office of Human Resources, worked in the World Trade Center when it was bombed in 1993. She feared that volunteering would bring back painful memories, but it had the opposite effect. "I actually feel much better doing something," she said.

Other people agreed that helping out raised their spirits. "An ironic byproduct of any disaster is how it brings people together," Washington said. "Responding and supporting each other becomes the most important thing."