Four years ago, American flags were abundant on cars and at businesses, lines were long at county blood donation sites, and Columbia County emergency officials were preparing to help out if called into action.
Shepeard Community Blood Center's Ellen Stone gets blood from Pam Willis, of Martinez. The center says there is a critical need for donations after Hurricane Katrina.
Photo by Valerie Rowell
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were felt throughout Columbia County.
Today, on the anniversary of those attacks, the county's attention has shifted to another national disaster, that of Hurricane Katrina.
"Isn't it interesting that with this tragedy in Louisiana and the Gulf Coast region ... we're seeing donors come in and donating for that as well,'' said Pamela Rascon, the community resources director for Shepeard Community Blood Center, which has two Columbia County offices.
Besides the upsurge of donors since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, though, some people say they have seen subtle changes in the county since 2001.
"It (blood donation) is not to the degree that Sept. 11 was four years ago, but it (the Hurricane Katrina response) is certainly another example of a tragedy that has brought the community out in force,'' Rascon said. "All of those people that came out and wanted to help during the tragedy of 9-11, if only we could reach them again and remind them that we need their life saving blood products every day in this community.''
Rascon said the area could use more blood donors.
"The need is still there, even if you take the tragedy of Katrina away,'' she said. It was only a few weeks ago that a critical appeal for more blood donations was issued in Columbia County.
Some changes also have been seen through flags.
Bud Dickson said sales of American flags at his business, Flag City on South Belair Road in Martinez, seem to have decreased in the past couple years.
And he hasn't seen a surge of American flag sales as Sept. 11 has approached.
"We thought last year leading up to 9-11 it might get busy,'' he said. "The only thing we got busy on was college stuff.''
The same has been true so far this year, too, he said.
And that's not all Dickson has noticed.
"You don't see too many U.S. car flags around anymore,'' he said. "You think back two, three years ago. Every car you'd see going down the road would have flags stuck to the windows.
"I don't even hear people talk about it (Sept. 11) anymore when they come in the store.''
To remind people of Sept. 11, 2001, and how people then donated so much blood, Rascon said Shepeard Community Blood Center will be giving all those who donate in the month of September a commemorative hardback book detailing the events surrounding the Sept. 11 attacks.
"It shouldn't be (forgotten),'' she said of the attacks and the county's response. "And part of what we want to do is because of the number of people that came out to donate blood after this national tragedy of Sept. 11, we thought the book was very appropriate to recognize that.''
This past week, donors also were being asked to sign a book to be given to emergency officials in Columbia County as a thank you for their service in honor of Sept. 11.
"It's a way for us to say thank you for our local heroes,'' Rascon said. "And we want them to have a copy of this book to keep in their station house or in their precinct for them to remember everything that's happened.''
As part of the tribute, Martina's Flowers & Gifts also was to give out a bouquet of flowers to all those who donated Friday.
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