Overwhelmed by volunteer doctors and nurses, donated goods and emergency rescue workers offering their assistance, New York officials and nonprofit groups have asked people to hold off on sending more help - for now.
"Money is fine. Go to the Red Cross and give blood," said Quentin Banks, a spokesman for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency. "But clothing and food and other things you think of in cases of hurricanes and other disasters are not appropriate in this case.
"People are giving from the heart, and that's a wonderful thing. But we have to be very circumspect and give folks in New York and northern Virginia only what they need. Otherwise, we'll overwhelm them, and they can't handle it."
In the hours immediately after terrorists crashed four hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field 80 miles outside Pittsburgh, emergency rescue officials asked medical workers to volunteer.
Now, those registries have too many offers of help.
"You would be surprised by the sheer number of people who volunteered," said Kelly Alexander, an American Red Cross spokeswoman. "From what I've been hearing and observing, they've discovered there are many more people who have not been recovered than those who have to be taken to the hospital, unfortunately."
The Health Care Association of New York State reported an "overwhelming response" to the request for medical volunteers. "The number of caregivers currently on standby greatly exceeds the number of persons needing medical care," the agency's hot line said.
The New York State Hotline for World Trade Center Relief also reported a "huge outpouring of donations of goods, services and volunteers." Only financial donations for victims, survivors and their families are still needed, the outgoing message on the hot line said.
"I don't think there is a need for anything right now beyond emotional and financial support," said Dave J. Iannone, a founder of Firehouse.com. The Web site for Firehouse Magazine primarily serves America's 1.5 million paid and volunteer firefighters.
"We've had such an overall response," he added, "that right now it's more than they can handle."
Red Cross officials say they always prefer money to more tangible donations.
"If people all over the country are collecting clothes, then there has to be a way to get them there, there has to be a place to store them and there has to be the manpower to sort them and distribute them," Alexander explained.
"If you give us a financial donation, we can use it to get exactly the things [victims] need or we can give people vouchers so they can get what they need."
By last night, the national nonprofit organization had raised about $85 million in individual, corporate and in-kind donations.
Relief workers were similarly inundated with supplies after Hurricane Andrew pounded South Florida in 1992. Two weeks after the powerful storm swept through the Sunshine State, the Salvation Army implored people to donate items other than clothing, such as diapers and baby food.
"In the emergency management business, this is what is called 'donations management,' " said MEMA's Banks. "We know people hurt right now, we know they want to help right now and we know waiting is hard ...
"Believe me, the minute New York tells us what they need, we will move heaven and earth to get it up there," he added. "But sending it when they don't ask for it will do more harm than good."
At least one organization is collecting nothing but well wishes for firefighters and emergency medical personnel. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation will forward cards of support and condolence to victims' families and to rescue workers still laboring at the World Trade Center.
They can be mailed to FDNY Families, c/o National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, P.O. Drawer 498, Emmitsburg, Md. 21727; e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org; or faxed to 301-447-1645.
How to give help effectively
Many organizations are collecting money to assist victims of last week's terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Somerset County, Pa.
The American Red Cross is accepting contributions by phone at 800-HELP-NOW or 800-257- 7575 (Spanish).
Internet users can make a secure online credit card contribution at www.redcross.org. Donations can be mailed to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, D.C. 20013.
The Sun is conducting a drive to raise disaster relief funds. The McCormick Tribune Foundation will match the first $5 million donated to the drive at a rate of 50 cents for each dollar you give. The money will go to relief agencies to cover the costs of assisting those affected by the crisis.
Donations may be made by calling 800-999-9005 or by mail. Checks should be made out to The Baltimore Sun Disaster Relief Fund and sent to The Baltimore Sun, P.O. Box 1377, Baltimore 21278.
The International Association of Fire Fighters has set up fallen heroes funds to assist the police officers and firefighters who were injured and the families of those who died in Tuesday's tragedies.
Donations can be sent to the IAFF General Secretary-Treasurer's Office, Attn.: New York Fire 9-11 Relief Fund, 1750 New York Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20006.
The New York Fraternal Order of Police Fund is accepting donations at 911 Police Plaza, Hicksville, N.Y. 11801.
The Salvation Army is collecting monetary donations. Mark checks "Disaster Relief" and mail to the National Disaster Fund, Salvation Army, 615 Slaters Ave., Alexandria, Va. 22312.
The United Way of New York City is accepting financial contributions at United Way September 11th Fund, 2 Park Ave., New York, N.Y. 10016, or by phone at 800- 710-8002.