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Around the nation

By Times staff and wire reports

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 13, 2001

EMS reports spike in service calls Tuesday

Pinellas County emergency workers reported a surge in calls and transports Tuesday as news of the terrorist attacks spread.

"It was the sense of the paramedics and dispatchers that there were more chest pains and stroke calls," said Chuck Kearns, director of Pinellas County EMS and Fire Administration.

Calls typically peak three times a day -- about 7 a.m., the lunch hour and between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. A fourth peak occurred late Tuesday morning, with 84 calls between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.

EMS officials were prepared, with four extra crews working. In all, the crews handled 324 medical transports Tuesday, far above the average of 270 or 280, Kearns said.

Tax rebates as aid

Some people felt compelled to do something.

Doris Purdy decided Wednesday she would donate her $300 tax rebate check to help victims of Tuesday's attacks.

"It just hit me," said Purdy, 80, of Palm Harbor once a secretary for then-Sen. Walter F. Mondale.

Most likely, she said, she will send her check to the Red Cross.

At 4 a.m. Wednesday, Dawn Michelle Morris, 51, of Palm Harbor awoke with a similar inspiration: Create fliers and urge people to donate their tax rebate checks to help support the military.

"I really feel that we are supposed to reinvest the money back into our armed forces," said Morris, who retired in 1996 after 24 years as a flight attendant with American Airlines. "How else are we going to protect ourselves? I want to live in a free country."

She hasn't yet figured out where to send the check.

Pinellas to increase safety

Pinellas County will evaluate how to increase security in county buildings, County Commission Chairman Calvin Harris said Wednesday. The county also will post a sheriff's deputy at all commission meetings.

"We take our freedom and our safety for granted," Harris said. "We're at the point where we have to become more security-conscious."

Al-Najjar turned away

TAMPA -- Mazen Al-Najjar came to a Fletcher Avenue donation center with a dozen other Muslims on Wednesday afternoon to give blood.

But the Tampa teacher released in December after years in detention as an alleged supporter of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was turned away.

Florida Blood Services requires donors to be out of jail for a year before they can donate to protect against hepatitis C.

Al-Najjar is just a few months shy of the one-year mark. He was released late last year when a judge ruled the government had no evidence to keep holding him.

He said it was unfair to target Muslims in general for this week's terrorist attacks and came to donate blood as a gesture to show "support and sympathy."

Al-Najjar plans to give blood on Dec. 16, a year and a day after his release.

Stranded fliers scramble

CHICAGO -- With U.S. skies under tight control Wednesday, tens of thousands of stranded air travelers around the country scrambled to rent cars, catch a bus or find some other way to get where they needed to go.

A day after the terrorist attacks prompted the government to ground all commercial flights for the first time in history, rental car agencies were swamped, long lines formed at train stations and big airports were eerily quiet.

Four people hired a taxi at Chicago's O'Hare Airport for a $3,000, 30-hour ride back to Los Angeles.

People bought used cars in Chicago to drive home when they were unable to get rentals. There were even reports of air passengers renting U-Haul or Ryder trucks for their long one-way journeys home, without cargo.

Transplant flights okayed

RICHMOND, Va. -- While most of the nation's airplanes remain grounded after Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the private network that runs the nation's transplant system has received permission to use chartered planes to deliver organs to medical patients.

A spokeswoman said 24 organs have been delivered since the network received clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration on Tuesday.

Antivenin flown to Florida

MIAMI -- An air ambulance carrying antivenin for a desperately ill snake-bite victim made its way Wednesday from San Diego to Southwest Miami-Dade -- possibly the only nongovernmental flight to cross the country's still-restricted air space in the wake of Tuesday's terrorist attacks.

"We were told this was the only nonmilitary plane over North America today," said Johnny Delgado, director of Baptist Health Systems AeroMed services.

Delgado worked the phones early Wednesday, trying get a plane to bring antivenin to 62-year-old snake handler Lawrence Van Sertima -- bitten while caging a rare and highly venomous Taipan snake at his South Dade business Tuesday afternoon.

The request was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration at 7 a.m.

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  • From the AP
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