Va. Web site is helping victims of terror attacks

Bush mentioned libertyunites.org in his speech

September 22, 2001|By Stacey Hirsh | Stacey Hirsh,SUN STAFF

Last weekend, a small Internet company in Reston, Va., landed a job so big that all 20 of the company's employees volunteered to work on it.

Their task: design a Web site that would serve as a central source of information for people who wanted to donate time or money after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on Sept. 11.

"For us, we were left wondering, is there anything we can do to help? And it was just sort of by coincidence that this came our way, and it was an honor for us to work on it," said David Baker, president and chief executive officer of Exit1 Inc., which designed the site for free.

President Bush announced the Internet site in the White House Rose Garden earlier this week. And traffic and donations got a boost Thursday night after the president's address to a joint session of Congress.

"I ask you to continue to support the victims of this tragedy with your contributions," President Bush said in his speech Thursday night. "Those who want to give can go to a central source of information, libertyunites.org, to find the names of groups providing direct help in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia."

The Web site is a part of an Internet initiative to help organizations working with the victims of the terrorist attacks and their families. Other companies involved include Cisco Systems Inc., Yahoo! Inc., eBay Inc., Microsoft Corp. and AOL Time Warner Inc.

Donations are the yardstick to measure how much the site is being used, said AOL Time Warner Inc. spokesman Andrew Weinstein. The number of hits to libertyunites.org has not been released.

Weinstein said, however, "there was definitely a spike in donations and traffic after the president spoke."

About $75 million had been donated online as of yesterday afternoon.

That number - posted on the Web site and updated twice a day - also includes online donations made through Web sites of the six companies involved in the Internet initiative or through Web sites of charities listed at libertyunites.org.

At a time when Americans are turning to the Internet for news and information, many are going there to help.

"Think about where we would all be without the Internet in the last 10 days," said Rob Lancaster, an Internet market strategies analyst for the Yankee Group in Boston.

Lancaster said the adoption of the Internet as an everyday tool was obvious Thursday night when President Bush directed those who want to give to libertyunites.org - without even saying that it was a Web site or mentioning the World Wide Web.

"It's not so much a fad anymore as it is a part of our lives," Lancaster said.

Getting the libertyunites site up was a fast process.

Baker of Exit1 was in his office at about 5 p.m. on Saturday when AOL Time Warner called and asked him to help.

Employees of the company raced to pull the site together, working in 20 to 30 hour shifts. Baker said he worked for about 36 consecutive hours on the project.

Less than three days after Exit1 began its job, libertyunites.org was up. Typically, a job like this would have taken about two weeks, Baker said.

"We could never sustain that pace on a regular basis, but I think it was just an adrenaline that was keeping us going," Baker said, "and the feeling that this really was going to do a lot of good."

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