Donors line up with blood, compassion
By DONG-PHUONG NGUYEN
© St. Petersburg Times,
Thousands of people across the region donated a record amount of blood Tuesday, hoping to help in the only way they knew how.
The biggest drive was at the Home Depot on S Dale Mabry near MacDill Air Force Base, which sprouted almost instantly as hundreds of donors lined the parking lot.
Dozens of tents were erected to shade donors from the sun, and businesses soon donated pizzas, water, ice, sunscreen and snacks. Area radio stations set up vans to spread word of the drive.
Radio coverage of the tragedy blared through speakers to keep donors updated. Drivers waved American flags. Some donors sobbed.
"You feel so helpless," said Kerry Durham, 22. "I just felt I needed to be here."
"The emotion that is coming out of the public is overwhelming," said April Threinen, territory manager for Florida Blood Services.
By 6 p.m. Tuesday, the agency had collected nearly 2,000 units of blood across the Tampa Bay area -- more than half from the South Tampa location, Threinen said.
On a normal day, Florida Blood Services collects about 600 units.
Outside the agency's headquarters in northern St. Petersburg, more than 1,000 people had registered by 2 p.m. and 300 to 400 were waiting in line.
"It's incredible, and the response was immediate," said spokesman Bob Carter.
The line to give blood outside the Verizon building on First Avenue N tripled the length of the bus as five Florida Blood Services workers moved quickly to process forms and take donations even as they ran low on blood bags.
The drive had been scheduled for the phone company's employees but by 4 p.m. many others others waited in line for two hours.
The Federal Aviation Adminstration cleared two planes to fly blood to Westchester County, N.Y., this morning, Carter said.
- Times staff writers Wes Allison, Lorri Helfand, Melia Bowie and Tamara Lush contributed to this report.
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