Every Red Cross Chapter and Blood Services Region received hundreds, if not thousands of spontaneous volunteer offers on 9/11/2001 and during the following weeks.
Close to 1,000 people lined up to donate blood at Red Cross Square in Washington, DC on 9.12 and 9.13. I was the end of the line greeter for these spontaneous blood donors for more than 12 hours.
I remember the pilots and flight crew members. They were stranded in Washington along with passengers. All flights were grounded by the FAA. They joined the line to give blood.
I remember the Arab American Businessmen, also stranded in D.C. after their conference. They also joined the line to give blood and to show their support.
I remember the construction crew, they, like many other workers, were given the day off. Their company said, go over to the Red Cross and donate blood.
I remember the teachers and aides I knew. They had been preschool teachers for both of my children. They also came to donate. We chatted, one stayed in line and the others went and bought me a sandwich and a drink for my lunch.
I remember the father who stopped in to bring bags of loose change and bills, money that his children had spontaneously collected from neighbors so the Red Cross could help the victims of 9/11.
I remember the tourists from Europe, they did not speak English, they had never donated blood, but they wanted to support America in this time of need.
I remember the relief crew of doctors and technicians arriving from John’s Hopkins and from other Blood Services Regions to provide respite to the large crew of technicians that had been collecting volunteer blood donations for hours.
Around 7 PM we told the last 100 people in line that we would not be able to take blood from everyone. They were given forms to fill in. They could come back the next or we could contact them to make an appointment to donate at a later date.
Many left, but the last woman in line said emphatically, I will be last. I am not leaving. I was a firefighter. I want to support the firefighters and police and rescuers who were killed. It was after 9 PM when she finally donated.
We also had hundreds of American Red Cross volunteers and employees in Washington, DC supporting the response and recovery to 9/11. Quite a few of those volunteer blood donors left the line to help out as spontaneous volunteers helping with the Blood Drive.
Others were lining up nurses around the country to help with shelters for people displaced by 9/11 and to help with families of victims. Red Cross chapters were also helping to shelter and to provide food and comfort to the thousands of people stranded in towns and cities across the US when the planes were grounded.
Across the Potomac River local American Red Cross volunteers and employees worked with partner agencies to provide food and drinks for the response workers at the Pentagon crash site. We could still see the smoke for days afterwards.
In New York, the theaters were closed. Many actors and artists also volunteered to help in the shelters, entertaining children and families to provide some distraction as they dealt with their losses and the deaths of loved ones.
On this 15th anniversary, I would like to say thank you to the fifty thousand plus volunteers and employees of the American Red Cross. I would also like to say thank you to the hundreds of other response agencies, the police, the firefighters, the military, the municipal workers,the actor s and artists and to millions of Americans to came together to help on 9/11 and the following days, months. You made a difference.
This blog is by
Bruce Summers, a Personal Historian at Summoose Tales, Board Member, Regions and Chapters Director, Association of Personal Historians, email@example.com