Donors give blood to help victims
A steady stream of cars pulled in and out of the parking lot of Asbury United Methodist Church in Maitland Sunday afternoon, as Central Floridians circled the Orlando area looking for locations to donate blood to aid victims of the terrorist attack that killed 50 and injured 53 at a downtown club over night.
President Barack Obama said the attack at the Pulse Orlando nightclub was, "the most deadly shooting in American history."
The Big Red Bus stationed in the Maitland parking lot was there as part of a private blood drive for the church organized months in advance, said OneBlood representative Tabatha Rodriguez. The bus was overwhelmed by those looking to donate blood in the aftermath of the shooting. She said the bus was only prepared to handle 10 donations on Sunday, but took donations from double that amount using backup supplies before running out and turning prospective donors away around 1:30 p.m.
“The turnout was amazing,” she said. “...It was a great show of humanity. It speaks volumes for the community of Orlando.”
Orlando resident Ashley Pennington drove from her home near Waterford Lakes to downtown Orlando at 10:30 this morning to donate blood after hearing the call that her blood type, 0 Negative, was in high demand to help the victims of the shooting. By the time she arrived at the Michigan Avenue OneBlood location, the line to donate was already hundreds of people long, she said. It would continue to grow as she waited for more than three hours, wrapping around like the serpentine queues at Disney World. Volunteers passed out water, Panera dropped off snacks, and Papa John's passed out pizza.
“The way that everybody came together for this whole thing... it gives me chills,” she said standing in the afternoon sun, pointing to the small raised bumps appearing on her bare arms.
“...You don't expect [things like this] to happen here.”
Pennington would never make it to the front of the donation line downtown, instead heading to Maitland after hearing there were no lines for the Big Red Bus at Asbury Church. When she got there, just after 1:30 p.m., the bus had already run out of supplies and was turning a steady stream of prospective donors away. A sign out front read, “Location full. Done for today.”
Rodriguez encouraged those looking to donate to visit oneblood.org to make an appointment during the week. Those wounded in the attack, she said, will still need help not only now, but in the weeks to come.
“Hold on to that emotion that you're feeling now, and come back throughout the week,” she said. “The need won't go away after today.”