On the morning of June 12, 2016, people lined up at a local blood bank in St. Petersburg, Florida, ready to wait for hours.
Following the deadly overnight attacks at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that left (at the time of writing) 50 dead and another 53 wounded, local blood banks and hospitals put out calls for blood donations to help treat the injured.
People turned up in droves.
Just over 100 miles west of Orlando in St. Petersburg, a city known for hosting Florida's largest Pride parade each year, the wait to donate blood at one OneBlood location topped two hours — with dozens more donors making appointments to come back later in the week.
Families arrived together, with teenagers asking how old they had to be to donate too. Family members and spouses of OneBlood employees came to take names for appointment times and hand out snacks and water. Donors volunteered to bring more supplies. Everyone was looking for any way they could find to help — no matter how small.
Though OneBlood's Sunday hours usually end at noon, the organization pledged to stay open as long as donors were still in line.
Here are what 13 blood donors in St. Petersburg had to say in their own words:
1. "We have to show the world there is more good in it than bad."
2. "I want to help make a difference."
3. "I believe that the tragic event in Orlando last night highlights our nation's increasing problem of gun violence."
4. "I felt compelled to do anything I could to help those affected."
5. "There is a crisis within our Community right now."
6. "Regardless of any reasons of why, or other speculations on the shooter, I'm doing this to help those who were affected by this horrible act."
7. "I feel helpless in the face of this targeted attack against the lgbtq community."
8. "People like me deserve to live in safety and health."
9. "God not only calls us to pray in times like these, but He also calls us to action."
10. "I am donating because my heart aches."
11. "I'm donating because I wanted to do something positive."
12. "I want to help in the only way I know."
13. "We cannot let ourselves and our culture to be controlled by hate and fear."
In the wake of a tragedy, there are always people willing to help in any way they can.
On June 12, 2016, over 50 families woke up to the worst kind of phone call. The families of others waited, terrified, outside a hospital for news of their loved ones.
The blood, platelets, and plasma donated by strangers in the wake of this, the deadliest mass shooting in American history, will help hospitals treat not just the victims and survivors of the attack on Pulse nightclub, but those injured by gun violence tomorrow and in the future as well.
That's what makes everyone who turned out at blood donation centers — and the compassion that motivated them to do so in the wake of this attack on the LGBTQ community — so important, so necessary, and so appreciated.