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Blood Drive Strives to Open Hearts

Salaam Bhatti stood on a Manhattan street corner two days before the 10th anniversary of the terror attacks and asked for people’s blood.

Bhatti and other volunteers from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community donned white shirts emblazoned with red hearts to co-host a blood drive with the New York Blood Center on Fourth Avenue at Union Square. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the oldest Islamic group the U.S., hopes to collect 10,000 bags of blood this year.  Every bag of blood can save up to three lives.

“Terrorists took away 3,000 of our own people on 9/11″ said Bhatti, 25. “We are trying to give back 30,000 American lives.”

Life Affirming Action

The volunteers, among them Muslims and non-Muslims, also came with a message that went beyond stemming a blood shortage.

“What we’re trying to do is let people know that the majority of Muslims are for life,” said Bhatti.

The New York Blood Center, which serves an area with 20 million people, recently issued an emergency call for donors, citing a shortage exacerbated by Hurricane Irene.

“On a good day, we’ll see as many as 100 donors,” said Deonariul Persaud, a donor specialist with the New York Blood Center. “People of all color, creed and race donate.”

Most of the folks who boarded the big red donation buses on Fourth Avenue hadn’t thought about giving blood when they left their homes that morning.

“I was just walking by,” said Kristen Barger of Brooklyn. “It’s a good thing to do if you have the time.”

A Positive Response

The drive’s timing didn’t seem to inspire any controversy among passersby.

“We haven’t experienced any negativity in Manhattan,” said Bhatti. “Every now and then you’ll get someone who doesn’t feel the same way. But they have the right.”

“Everyone needs blood,” said one donor, Kun Yang of Queens. “It’s a matter of life and death.”

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