Orlando attack: Muslims join hundreds who answer call to donate blood

Orlando - There were scores of people lining up to give blood and Azmia Racchuito was adamant that she be among then.

It was not that she felt she was a spokesperson for all Muslims - indeed, she scoffed at the suggestion - but she was also determined not to hide. She said her mother had begged her not to wear her hijab, or scarf, before leaving the house but that she had refused. If she had given into fear, she believed the "terrorists would win".

“I think it is important for Muslims to take a stand. This is our community too,” she said, standing outside a clinic close to the Pulse nightclub in central Orlando. “I’m here to say that I cannot let Donald Trump have his view of America.”

Ms Racchuito, 30, who edits a website for Muslim women, was among hundreds or even thousands of people who responded to the attack on a popular gay club in Orlando by answering a call to give blood. Many had to wait five or six hours to donate, and yet they waited in line, even when officials said they had met their needs. The heat was merciless.

“We’re appalled that this has happened. This is the month of Ramadan,” said Tatiana Merchant, 24, who was also at the OneBlood clinic to show her support to those killed and injured. “Muslims stand for peace. Islam is about showing support. We’re showing our solidarity with the community.”

The non-profit organisation had asked for donations in the immediate aftermath of the attack, and officials said the response from members of the community had been nothing less than stunning.

“I would describe this as surreal,” said spokesman Pat Michaels. “Earlier today after the shooting, there was a call for blood or plasma. Word got out and people have been coming to our clinics across Orlando and Florida.”

He said the organisation had met its needs and was now urging people to make an appointment to donate if they still wished to help.

Kevin Harrell, a DJ, had been waiting for around six hours. He was determined to stay as long as it took. As a member of the nightlife industry, he said he felt the attack closely.

“It seemed like the least we could do,” he said of his donating of blood. “We cannot allow an attack on our way of life.”

Andrew Bacchus, who was African American, said that as a member of a minority that had long been persecuted, he felt obliged to respond to an attack on the LGBT community. He said it was time for the US to seriously confront the issue of gun control and no longer make excuses.

“How can you not do something,” he said. “You have to change the views of people.”