William Blaul: The Red Cross response
William Blaul is senior vice president of communications and marketing for the American Red Cross.
CNN: Welcome to CNN.com William Blaul. We are very pleased to have you with us today.
WILLIAM BLAUL: I'd like to say hello to everyone, and first say that this has been an extraordinary time for America. And the Red Cross, probably foremost among other institutions, has seen how the country has pulled together in incredible ways, to donating blood, providing financial contributions, volunteering time. It really shows us what our country is capable of, under the worst of circumstances.
CNN: Was the Red Cross surprised by the response of so many who gave blood last week? Can you give us some idea of how great the turnout was?
BLAUL: The turnout has been unprecedented in our history. There were two previous occasions where people turned out in large numbers to donate blood nationwide. The first was the Gulf War during Desert Storm, and the other was the Oklahoma City bombing. Since September 11th, our national blood inventory on September was at, to be precise, 80,922 units, and that is about a four-day supply of blood for the nation. As of yesterday, our inventory was at 135,609 units, which is better than a six day inventory, and there are thousands more units of blood that are in the system being tested and distributed. So, the blood inventory is going to continue to rise.
We of the American Red Cross made a very conscious decision that people were coming to the American Red Cross nationwide, including right here in Washington, D.C. across from the White House, from September 11th on, and people were coming spontaneously to the Red Cross to donate blood. We brought our mobile collection units in, got set up, and we've been collecting ever since. Now, some of these people, in fact many of these folks, we've told them, "You know, thanks for coming, but it could be a three or four hour wait." Almost to a person, they say, "that's okay, I just want to help." There's no way the Red Cross is going to turn aside that kind of spirit.
Here in downtown D.C., we were here one night until 11:30 collecting blood. So, this is absolutely unprecedented. It's extraordinarily uplifting, and we are implementing plans to freeze as much of this blood we're collecting as possible, so it's available well into the future.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Is it true that no more blood is needed at this time?
BLAUL: Blood is always needed. I can't emphasize that enough. We have to remember that this nation is moving toward what amounts to a war footing. We must build our inventories of blood and disaster relief supplies so that we meet existing patient needs and any that may result from military action or other disastrous events.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Is there anything specific that the Red Cross actually needs? I heard masks were in short supply?
BLAUL: Right now, we are in good shape in terms of providing the search and rescue crews in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, with the items they need to continue their work. That includes dust masks, eyedrops, food, water, emotional support, cots, blankets, things like that. The outpouring from America has been so great that if there are any shortages, they are very momentary, and quickly addressed. So, for people who want to help, the best way is for a cash contribution, so we can ensure we have available stocks of those supplies.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Mr. Blaul, are there any children left parentless, and if so what can I do for them?
BLAUL: I'm sure there are. The federal, state and local authorities, as well as the Red Cross, are banding together to provide an unprecedented level of support for families of all the victims including the police officers, the firefighters, the people in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the aircraft. We're banding together to assure a seamless and very compassionate package of support for all those who have been harmed by these terrible tragedies. Governor Pataki yesterday announced that full scholarships will be made available to the children of all those who lost their lives in New York from the attacks. That's an example of the extraordinary support that is being provided. The Red Cross can be counted on to augment that support.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: How do you ensure that the blood collected is pure and not doctored for AIDS contaminants?
BLAUL: Every blood donation collected by the American Red Cross is being subjected to exactly the same tests and safety procedures that were in place before September 11th. Every unit of blood undergoes up to 13 tests for safety, including all those units collected since September 11th. This blood is the safest possible.
CNN: Can our international friends help in any way?
BLAUL: The American Red Cross has been notified by several Red Cross and Red Crescent societies worldwide, that they are also experiencing an outpouring of financial donations to help the victims of these tragedies. We anticipate receiving tens of millions of dollars in the near future from other Red Cross societies in the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain and Kuwait, to name a few.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: How have monetary donations risen? And what specifically is the money being used for?
BLAUL: As of one hour ago, the American Red Cross has raised $128,603,779.25. By the way, $36.9 million of that has come through our Web site, which is extraordinary. The money that the Red Cross has received is being allocated in the following ways. First, we are addressing the immediate disaster relief needs for survivors, families of victims, and rescue workers at all of the sites involved, as well as the airports, and in reality, communities nationwide. I mentioned earlier the specific forms in which that relief is taking place: food, grief counseling, beverages, shelter for those displaced, and so on.
Second, the American Red Cross is maintaining America's blood supply. Third, America is grieving, and more than 1,000 Red Cross chapters in communities nationwide are conducting all kinds of outreach, helping Americans mourn together, to pray, and to comfort one another. These programs range from organizing school children to write letters of support and condolence to those affected, to staffing grief counseling hotlines, and helping and assisting in holding memorial services, as we did day before yesterday in Pennsylvania. Fourth, the American Red Cross will be embarking upon a national effort to share with the American public our fundamental principles that include humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, voluntary service, unity, and universality. ... in an effort to ensure Americans are compassionate to all, regardless of their ethnic, religious, or national heritage.
In short, we want to ensure that unfortunate actions targeting those from a perceived Arabic background are not singled out for retribution. Lastly, the recovery from September 11th will take months, and there will be much more suffering ahead. We are building a medical mercy batallion that will consist of doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel who can help people grieve and heal. So, those are our top five areas where we're directing the relief funds.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Does Red Cross have a Web site where people can get information about what they can do to help?
BLAUL: Yes. That would be http://www.redcross.org
CNN: Do you have any final thoughts for us today?
BLAUL: I think what is most important right now is for people to continue to pull together and to take under their wing those in our community who could be singled out for inappropriate behavior by those caught up in the passion of responding to these terrible attacks. The United States is virtually the only nation in the world where so many people from so many parts of the world and so many faiths live together in peace and understanding, and we cannot reward these criminals who committed these acts with allowing the seeds of discord to sprout in the United States. The American Red Cross deeply appreciates this incredible outpouring of support, and everyone should be reassured that this support is making a difference.
CNN: Thank you for joining us today Bill Blaul.
BLAUL: Thank you for your questions, and if you have other questions, please visit our Web site, http://www.redcross.org. We do have people online ready to answer your questions about Red Cross response to these disasters. We have a bit of backlog right now, but we'll do our best to answer all questions.
William Blaul joined CNN.com via telephone from Washington, DC. CNN provided a typist for him. The above is an edited transcript of the interview on Wednesday, September 19, 2001.
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