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Firefighter to Honor Sept. 11th Victims through Blood Drive Event

Schedule your appointment at the Spirit of America Blood Drive by clicking here.

Nearly 16 years ago at a police academy in Northern Michigan, Officer Jan Ganzel was learning the ropes in every aspect of public service – firefighting, emergency medical tech, and police work. Those skills would all become useful to him in his future, but on a Tuesday in September of that year, Ganzel was lost for how he could use them.

“I’ll never forget that sound – that sound of nothing,” said Ofc. Ganzel as he recalled the atmosphere of his campus on September 11th, 2001. The World Trade Center was gone, the Pentagon had been hit, and hundreds of people were missing. Ganzel said he and his fellow trainees all did what they could from their Northern Michigan campus  – donate blood, put together care packages, etc. – but there was little more that could be done. In the months and years to follow, more would be learned about the terrorist attacks, but the Long Island native’s thoughts always went back to the first responders.

“Some of them walked in with 60lbs of gear, not knowing whether or not they’d come out,” he said, “And 4-hundred of them didn’t.”

The thoughts of the first responders stayed with Ganzel as he continued on his career path, eventually taking him to the Blackman-Leoni Township Department of Public Safety near Jackson, Michigan. As Ganzel worked in his own way to save people in the community, another group worked to ensure there was always enough blood for the hospitals in the area.

The Spirit of America Blood Drive began on Sept. 11th, 2002, at the Michigan International Speedway (MIS) in Brooklyn, Michigan. The event was put together as a way to honor the 3-thousand people lost in the attacks on 9/11, while helping people across the company’s namesake state. Michigan Blood then teamed up with MIS to ensure the blood collected at the event stayed in Michigan.

“Every blood donation we collect stays here in Michigan,” said Alicia Barry, Community Relations Manager for Michigan Blood, “So when it comes to hospital patients, we put Michigan first.”

It would be another 15 years before the Spirit of America organizers and Ofc. Ganzel would meet, but it would be with the same purpose in mind: honoring the victims of the Sept. 11th attacks through acts of service in the community.

“We need to do good by people. So how do we honor the sacrifices our military and first responders make? By doing good,” said Ganzel.

This year, the officer’s ‘good’ is with the continued efforts to get blood to the people who need it across Michigan. The Spirit of America Blood Drive, now in its 16th year, is working to get 911 appointments for its Sept. 11th, 2017 event. Ganzel is on board to help get to that number, and plans to take part himself.

“This is my opportunity to get other people aware of how important this one little thing – donating blood – can be,” said Ganzel, “The fact that the blood stays here and helps people in Michigan – I want to push that.”

The Spirit of America Blood Drive takes place at the Michigan International Speedway from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 11th, 2017. Blood donors will be able to ride around the racetrack, receive a free lunch in the Champions Club, and get a behind-the-scenes look at MIS, among other perks. There will also be several different tributes to the victims of 9/11, including the “Home of the Brave” exhibit.

To participate in the event, you must have an appointment to donate blood. Appointments can be made by calling 1-866-MIBLOOD (642-5663) or at www.SpiritofAmericaBloodDrive.com.