Jessica Morgan ’02 had an appointment Wednesday morning. She was scheduled to have an informational interview for an investment banking job in Lehman Brothers’ offices at Four World Trade Center.
But when she saw the planes slice through the twin towers with terrifying precision, when she saw their 110 stories come cascading down in an awful gray plume Tuesday, she knew there was another place she needed to be.
The early morning train to New York became an early morning walk to Temple Street, where Morgan spent nine hours in the Omni Hotel’s second-floor conference room, checking a steady stream of quiet people.
They came half-asleep and bearing backpacks from Morse and Stiles, came dressed in suits and carrying briefcases from offices on Church Street. They came to give the only thing they could, a pint of blood in a clear plastic pouch that might make it to a person buried beneath a tower of rubble 75 miles away.
By the end of the day, Morgan and other volunteers at the Omni had turned away more than 250 people, nearly twice the number of people they were able to receive donations from.
Like Americans everywhere, students and staff alike paused to absorb the unthinkable events of the past 48 hours.
Unlike most of the people there, Jon White had been planning on being at the Omni for a month for a regularly scheduled blood drive. But White, a Red Cross head nurse, only learned Tuesday about the dozens of donors who would be showing up every hour. Despite the sudden influx, White felt prepared.
“I knew people were ready to come out, and I knew we were ready to handle them,” White said.
By 10:30 a.m., however, White had to turn away new blood donors. With a line of 200 donors waiting to be processed, the 16 nurses, assistants and volunteers at the Omni had their hands full.
“We were so overwhelmed, but we didn’t want people to be turned away,” White said.
In a conference room at the Omni, the Red Cross set up six tables for their blood drive, which had been scheduled for months but had a renewed urgency this week.
The nurses had requisitioned a bellhop’s bell and used it as an alarm in case any donors fainted.
Elizabeth Wilson ’02 lay on one recovery table, but no one needed to ring the bell on her behalf.
“This was the first and only thing I could think of to do,” said Wilson, who has yet to attend a class since the attack. “It’s been hard to think about anything else.”
At Yale-New Haven, even more donors had lined up — more than 359 were registered to give blood — but they at least had some distraction during their hours-long wait. Dr. Sneakers and Dr. Chester Drawers, the hospital’s two clowns, visited the 100-foot line of donors every two hours with words of encouragement and humorously dry jokes.
Rachel Kelley ’05 had been waiting for four hours and was 10 spots away from donating blood for the second time in her life. The first time was at her high school last year, a perfect excuse to miss softball practice. Now, her motives were a little less trivial.
“The attack was a shock,” said Kelley, who attended the candlelight vigil in Branford last night. “I felt angry and helpless. Lots of people here are coming around to thank us. It makes you feel like you can help.”
So far from New York, Kelley came to Yale-New Haven looking to help.
“It makes me feel like I’m doing my part,” she said.
And then there are those who will have to wait until later this week.
Raisa Rexer ’04, who was unable to get in touch with her immediate family members in Brooklyn until 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, never got to give blood yesterday. At 10:30 a.m., half an hour after Rexer arrived at the Omni, the blood drive was shut down to new donors.
With no way of getting to Brooklyn, Rexer was looking to assist the victims at a time when helplessness and disgust were foremost in her mind.
“I just want to feel like I am making a difference,” Rexer said. “There’s now a temporary hospital set up where I used to figure skate. It’s strange knowing that all these places you have known as a child have fallen into chaos.”
At Yale-New Haven, lab operations director Denise Fiori said that while it was not easy to turn away over 150 donors, it is important that donors know they will have plenty of opportunities to give blood in the upcoming weeks.
“It’s important people donate now but it’s just as important if not more important that people donate in a week or in a month,” Fiorio said. “If any of our blood supply gets diverted to New York, we’re going to experience a tremendous shortfall in our blood supply.”
The next Yale-New Haven blood drive at the South Medical building Sept. 19 is already filled to capacity with 65 appointments.
On average, it takes 35 minutes to donate blood from the moment the donor sits on the gurney to the time he leaves the room. Because of this extensive process, each blood drive cannot withstand a sudden increase in donors.
“Usually, we try to record the individual information of each donor,” Fiorio said. “Here, we’re just taking volume.”