(photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
Freida Cardwell, blood services chairperson for the Southeast District of the American Red Cross, reported a 70 percent increase in the amount of blood donated in the area following that date.
"It seems like disaster heightens peoples' emotions," she said. "They wanted to give, they wanted to do. My phone was ringing off the wall with people who wanted to give blood and wanted to have blood drives. People's hearts were just so open and whatever they could do they did. Money was pouring in, they just couldn't do enough. At our first blood drive I bet we had to turn 200 people away."
But nine months later, that desire has seemingly dwindled, leaving many American Red Cross agencies with inventories they warn are critically low.
The Southeast District of the American Red Cross reports its blood supply is currently barely above emergency level.
The organization has already reached the emergency level for O negative blood, having only a one-day supply of this universal blood type available.
Because it takes two days to test the blood, the Red Cross prefers to have a five-day supply on hand at all times. Not having it means there will be hospital patients having to wait on the tested blood.
The problem? It could be attributed to a number of things, said Cardwell.
Some individuals might feel since they gave in September they shouldn't have to give again. Others may not realize blood only has a shelf life of 42 days.
"Unfortunately each and every drive since we had the one at the end of September has slackened off," Cardwell said sadly. "It seems like people forget so quickly and it's heartbreaking because there are still needs. There are still people with cancer, leukemia, sickle cell diseases, anemia, car wrecks and newborn babies. It's just not publicly in their face. It's not a catastrophe and it doesn't seem to be a top priority to people."
Cardwell said a big part of the problem is people's busy lives which she believes has made them forget.
"They were busy in September, too, but it was on the radio, the newspapers and on television and they saw those heart-warming stories. When you see those people on television and their hearts are breaking, that pulls at your heart strings and you want to do something. If we could get those stories on television now, on how it's affecting small towns... It's kind of like out of sight out of mind."
But Cardwell cautioned that Americans didn't know that Sept. 11 was going to happen just as they can't foresee the future.
"We still don't know what's going to happen. We want to be prepared because as it stands there would be a lot of people who would not have blood, it's simply not there. It's so important especially now to keep it on the shelves and have that reserve, knowing what could happen. Nothing you could do that day could be more important than keeping someone alive."