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Queens gives blood to help terrorism victims

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Inspired by a desire to help in the one way they saw possible, hundreds of Queens residents lined up for hours at area hospitals to donate blood in the wake of Tuesday’s terrorist attack at the World Trade Center.

The New York Blood Center announced a blood emergency for the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area, which prompted and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to call on New Yorkers to donate blood to help treat the victims.

The city faced a critical blood supply shortage before two hijacked commercial airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers early Tuesday morning. The catastrophe was expected to exacerbate the city’s blood supply crisis.

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, Giuliani estimated there were 2,100 injuries caused by the attack. The number was expected to increase as rescue efforts continued.

The mayor could not categorize the number of dead, but said, “the end result is going to be horrendous number of lives lost.”

Many Queens residents answered the call to donate. At Elmhurst Hospital, where more than 300 people came to give blood, the staff was forced to turn away donors by early afternoon.

“We’re so overwhelmed,” said hospital spokesman Dario Centorcelli. “We usually take approximately 10 donations a day.”

Hundreds of donors waited for hours in a line that ran around the edge of the hospital auditorium.

“The only other option was to sit in the apartment and watch it happen,” said Noreen Hyde, 27, a mental health administrator from Astoria who was waiting to give blood.

Beginning at 1 p.m. Tuesday, people began lining up at Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica. By 8 p.m. more than 200 people had donated blood. At least 100 others were turned away because they did not meet the parameters required of donors, said Philip Cook, a hospital spokesman.

Cook said the waiting area remained crowded at 8 p.m. and donations of blood were to be accepted until midnight.

Although his employees had to scramble to cater to the large numbers of donors who lined up to give blood, Chief Operating Officer Antonio Martin was touched by the long lines. “It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I’m overwhelmed with the outpouring of support.”

Joseph Lopez, 25, of Jamaica, was among the first donors to reach Queens Hospital Center. “I was watching the news and they said there was a shortage of blood,” he said. “I figured I could contribute to saving someone’s life.”

At St John’s university, officials canceled classes, called an emergency mass and organized a shuttle bus to transport students interested in donating blood to area hospitals.

Mehmet Sengulen, a St. John’s senior, showed up at Queens Hospital Center with three classmates. He had seen the attack through the window of a professor’s office in Bent Hall.

“I looked out the window and could see fire,” Sengulen said. “We thought we should do something. We couldn’t go into the city, so we figured we would give blood.”

Stacey Clark, a St. John’s junior, said “the mayor said the only thing you can do is to give blood so we decided to do it.” Clark added that many students at St. John’s were crying.

Sophomore Anita Baksh, 20, of Richmond Hill, said she was giving blood because there were so many people who needed it. “I wish I could do something more,” she added.

Sidney Ko, a spokesman for the Queens chapter of the American Red Cross, said the agency was “overwhelmed” by donors across the borough and city. Despite the incredible turnout, he said there was still a need for type “O” universal donors.

People interested in giving blood can call 1800-933-BLOOD for the location of the nearest donation center.

-Dustin Brown contributed to this story

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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