CHAMPAIGN - People were giving at the rate of $100 a minute Tuesday in the first hour as the Red Cross used the Assembly Hall parking lot for a giant drive-in donation center.
"One gentleman drove up with a bank envelope that had $950 in it," said Mike Cation, whose Illini Radio Group was helping to staff the donation.
"We asked if it was from some large organization, but it was just from him."
Barbara Payne, executive director of the Illini Prairie Chapter of the American Red Cross, said people wanting their donations to go specifically to New York and Washington relief should designate them that way.
Otherwise, the donations will go to the chapter's local relief fund.
Champaign-Urbana residents acted immediately to help the victims of a terrorist attack that is expected to dwarf Pearl Harbor in the numbers killed and wounded.
With little notice beyond radio ads, the fund-raising event kicked off at 3 p.m. just south of the Illini saucer.
Raychell Maier and her 7-year-old son Matt manned the big plastic football that serves as a repository for the donations.
Fifty minutes into the event, she'd counted more than $5,000 in bills and checks.
"People have been very generous. They pull in, hand us the money, and they're off again, just like that," said Maier, an account executive at Mix 94.5 FM.
By 6 p.m. Tuesday, more than $21,000 had been donated. Cation said Red Cross and radio volunteers agreed to shut down at 8 p.m., because of safety concerns about so much cash.
But they intended to be back out there at 6 a.m.
The Danville Salvation Army is accepting monetary donations at the Citadel, 855 E. Fairchild St., to support national efforts to assist stranded travelers and bracing for future needs for counselors, according to Executive Director Carolyn Schwabauer.
Vermilion County residents can direct monetary donations to the National Disaster Relief Fund at the Danville Red Cross, 320 N. Franklin St.
Kathy Wirth of the Red Cross chapter in Champaign-Urbana said money is the most pressing need right now.
A few people offered to donate blood, but there were no facilities at the Assembly Hall to do so.
Nor does the campaign need generous donations of canned food.
"Cash is really the most efficient way to get help there," she said, citing shipping and other middlemen as ways non-cash donations shrink as they move across the nation.
She said the Red Cross also needs donations to help travelers who were stranded at Willard Airport after a plane from Philadelphia was rerouted here.
Lois Campbell of Urbana said she didn't care where her money went, as long as it helped somebody.
"I can remember Pearl Harbor," the retired school teacher said.
"I don't know which of these is worse. I don't think it matters. I feel so bad for all the suffering."
Mike Van Matre of Champaign, a mechanic at Coldwell Systems, had a $50 check for a side job he did Monday.
He signed it over to the Red Cross.
"They've got a big job. I just want to do something for somebody. This is the worst news in my lifetime," he said.
University of Illinois student Agith Antony said he wanted to do what he could for the victims.
"It's little enough, but I hope it helps," he said.
Cation said it was common to see people hand over $100 bills, but the volunteers also appreciated dimes and quarters and nickels.
"People are being incredibly generous," he said. "It's very moving."
This story originally appeared on Sept. 12, 2001.