As the search continues for missing NIU student Antinette “Toni” Keller, students who want to help learned Tuesday afternoon from NIU officials about three ways they can make a difference.
They were also updated about the investigation into Keller’s disappearance, given words of advice on taking care of themselves during times of anxiety and encouraged to check in with their own parents.
Students are mobilizing to distribute fliers throughout DeKalb, make ribbons and bows that raise awareness about Toni and are creating cards to send to the Keller family. NIU President John Peters has been in contact with the family.
“We want them to know that NIU is here for them,” said Brian O. Hemphill, vice president for Student Affairs & Enrollment Management, as he spoke to dozens of concerned students who came to a meeting in the Stevenson Towers Multipurpose Room Tuesday afternoon.
- Distribution of fliers is taking place until 5:30 p.m. today, although there will be more opportunities in coming days. Members of the NIU community who want to assist in the poster distribution can obtain them at the Department of Police & Public Safety, on the corner of Lucinda Avenue and Wirtz Drive, or by clicking on the image above, which links to a printable PDF form of the poster.
- For students who want to make ribbons and buttons, that activity will take place in the Duke Ellington Ballroom of the Holmes Student Center from 4 to 7 p.m. and from 9 to 11 p.m. today, Wednesday and Thursday. Sessions also will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.
- Students who wish to make and send cards and messages to Toni’s family are invited to the Northeast-Southeast Room of Neptune Central from 4 to 7 p.m. and 9 to 11 p.m. today, Wednesday and Thursday. Sessions also will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday.
Meanwhile, NIU’s Counseling & Student Development Center will stay open until 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday to meet with any students who would like to speak with NIU counselors.
Counselors also will be available at the Neptune Fireside Lounge from 4 to 7 p.m. and from 9 to 11 p.m. Tuesday to talk with students. They also will speak with students from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday in the Neptune Fireside Lounge.
Carolyn Bershad, associate director of the counseling center, urged students to take care of themselves during times of uncertainty that provoke anxiety and stress.
Students should talk about their feelings and “honor their feelings” while they realize that not everyone is reacting the same way to the situation. Meanwhile, they should provide comfort and assurance to each other and take a break from watching the news and reading the Internet.
Tuesday’s meeting with faculty, staff and students, as well as interested members of the greater DeKalb community, began with an update on the investigation from NIU Police Chief Donald Grady.
“We want to do everything we can to find her. We don’t know where she is,” Grady said. “Everything that can be done is being done.”
Keller was last seen around noon Thursday, Oct. 14. She reportedly told friends that she was going for a walk in an area adjacent to West Lincoln Highway near the Junction Center retail complex.
Police were alerted about Keller at 6:09 p.m. Friday, Grady said, and immediately began canvassing Neptune Hall. Every floor was searched from east to west and from north to south, including every common room, every restroom and Keller’s own room in Neptune North.
Officers went to the park where Keller liked to draw pictures and searched there with flashlights until 9 p.m., the chief said. Finding nothing, they spent the overnight hours interviewing her friends.
NIU police also issued a national all-points bulletin – also known as a “BOLO,” or “Be On the Look-Out” – that night.
By 6 a.m. Saturday, police officers had resumed their search. By 1 p.m. that afternoon, two trained dogs were enlisted to independently track Keller’s scent. Both dogs confirmed her path of travel until the scent was lost.
Officers from NIU, the DeKalb Police Department, DeKalb Fire Department, DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department, Sycamore Police Department and Illinois State Police have searched an area from Lincoln Highway on the north to Fairview Drive on the south and from First Street on the east to Nelson Road on the west.
Representatives from the Union Pacific Railroad, whose tracks wind through that area, also have been involved in the search effort.
Four teams were mobilized to explore the area grid by grid; after one team had foraged one grid, another would follow in their footsteps. “Every area was covered at least twice,” Grady said.
Hemphill cautioned students about trying to search the area themselves, mentioning its rough terrain that includes creeks, trees and railroad tracks. He also reminded the crowd that police officers are trained in this work. “The police have checked and double-checked that area,” he said.
Anyone with information regarding Keller should call NIU police at (815) 753-1212.
Meanwhile updates are constantly being posted to the university’s Emergency Information website. Subscribe to be notified via e-mail when an update is posted.
One student eager to see Keller again is her friend, Ben Yamamoto, a freshman photography major who lives on her floor in Neptune North.
Yamamoto started the Facebook page called “Missing Antinette Keller.”
“She’s a real nice girl, really quiet, an optimistic person,” Yamamoto said. “We all are trying to stay happy.”