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After Mass Shooting, Hundreds In El Paso Line Up To Give Blood

Stella M. Chávez
Stephanie Sazo, 26, and Sandy Heath, 75, stand outside Vitalant, one of the blood donation centers in El Paso.

Sandy Heath was at a funeral service Saturday morning when she got a phone alert about an active shooter. That prompted her church to go on lockdown.

Then came the text messages from friends and family making sure Heath, 75, was ok. And, could she help?

“Are you giving blood?” her sister asked. “They say they need blood.”

So Heath, who's lived in El Paso nearly three decades, drove to Vitalant, a blood donation center on the city's east side. When she got there around 3 p.m., a line of people stood wrapped around the building. Heath didn’t leave until nearly five hours later. She even helped pass out bottled water.

“El Pasoans always come to support when there’s a crisis,” said Heath, who moved to the city with her late husband, a pastor at Vista Hills Church. “It’s a really loving city, a caring city, and what happened today is not typical of the people from El Paso.”

Credit Stella M. Chávez / KERA News
Yvonne Solis stands inside one of the blood donation centers in El Paso. Solis, a donor recruitment representative, says people should continue to give blood because some survivors of the mass shooting may need additional surgeries.

Yvonne Solis, a senior donor recruitment representative with Vitalant, said the blood center was overwhelmed with people wanting to give blood – so much so it stopped accepting donations after nearly three hours. So staff asked people to sign up for an appointment to return the following day or later in the week.

“We really encourage people to continue to donate because those victims are not only going to need the blood now, but should they need future surgeries, they will continue to need the blood into the future,” Solis said.

The lifelong El Paso resident also said she was moved by who showed up – it wasn’t just donors.

“People were just driving up in trucks and unloading bottles of water and they brought pizzas and food,” Solis said. “Strangers were out there taking care of our donors, making sure they brought tents or they set up canopies so that people wouldn’t be in the sun. It’s been incredible.”

As temperatures reached 100 degrees on Saturday, Solis said the help was especially welcomed.

Stella M. Chávez is KERA’s immigration/demographics reporter/blogger. Her journalism roots run deep: She spent a decade and a half in newspapers – including seven years at The Dallas Morning News, where she covered education and won the Livingston Award for National Reporting, which is given annually to the best journalists across the country under age 35.