AUGUSTA — Fifteen years ago, when Donald Macomber first learned that terrorists had hijacked planes and flown them into the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people and injuring more than twice that number, his first instinct was to give blood.

He went to MaineGeneral Medical Center (as it’s now known) to do just that, but the hospital was not equipped to receive blood donations that day, Macomber recalled on Sunday morning.

Since then, he has made a point of donating blood on every Sept. 11 that he can.

“To me, 9/11 was such a huge event in everyone’s lives,” said Macomber, a 53-year-old Hallowell resident who works as a prosecutor for the Office of the Maine Attorney General. “(Donating blood) is a way for everyone to work together and be united. It’s an easy way to give back.”

Macomber made those remarks on Sunday morning at Augusta Civic Center, where the American Red Cross was holding one of four statewide blood drives in remembrance of 9/11. The others were in Portland, Auburn and Holden.

Though Macomber realized at the last minute that he was not eligible to donate blood until one day after Sept. 11 this year, he still decided to volunteer at the blood drive and spent his Sunday passing doughnuts, bottles of water, cups of coffee and bags of pretzels to those who had just donated.


The blood drives were just one way that Mainers marked the 15 years that have passed since 9/11, an event that radically changed the course of history for both the country and world.

Wars have been fought. Terrorist groups have multiplied. The Patriot Act was passed. Airport security was tightened. Immigration has declined. Debates about the importance of security versus civil liberties continue as loudly as ever. Since 9/11, fewer than 100 people have been killed on U.S. soil by Islamist extremists.

On the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, there have been multiple remembrance ceremonies across the state.

But while a generation of teenagers has finally come of age with little to no firsthand knowledge of 9/11, that day’s events were seared into the memory of many who donated blood in Augusta Sunday morning.

Sue Baker, a 59-year-old Pittston woman, regularly gives blood, and like many Americans, she has a poignant 9/11 story.

On Sept. 9, a family member of hers boarded a plane at Portland International Jetport as part of a trip to the west coast.


On Sept. 11, Baker noted, two of the 9/11 attackers also boarded a plane in Portland. They changed flights in Boston, then hijacked the plane and flew it into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

“Two days later and he could have been on that flight,” Baker said with disbelief, as she sat at the table reserved for people who had just given blood.

Also at the table was Paul Rodrigue, 63, of Augusta.

Rodrigue was in Washington, D.C., on the morning of 9/11, because his wife was going to George Washington University for medical work. He learned of the attacks after passing outside a bar and noticing some 45 people silently staring at a television screen.

Eventually Rodrigue’s brother-in-law came down from New Jersey to retrieve him and his wife, but not before they noticed some of the effects the attacks had on the nation’s capital.

“We could see the smoke from the Pentagon,” Rodrigue said. “I have the chills just thinking about it now. It was eerie. There were no cars in the street.”


Both Rodrigue and Baker donated two units of blood on Sunday, through a process known as double donation that returns plasma and platelets to the donor.

In total, the Red Cross hoped to receive 464 pints of blood from Maine donors on Sunday. By late afternoon, the Augusta site had received close to 200 pints of blood, according to Jenna Palladino, an account manager for the Red Cross who was overseeing the donation.

Palladino did not know where the donated blood would eventually go, but said all donations initially head to a testing and distribution site in Dedham, Massachusetts.

Among the younger donors on Sunday morning were Seth Cater, 23, of Winslow, and Katherine Webber, 27, of Augusta, who had come to Augusta Civic Center together. Both have donated blood before and noted that their blood types are O positive — the most sought after blood type, because it can be donated to those with any other blood type.

Webber said she can remember hearing about the 9/11 attacks during her 7th grade science class at the now-closed St. Augustine School in Augusta. She watched footage of the attacks on one of the school’s television sets before administrators sent the students home early.

“People were really upset,” she recalled. “They didn’t have any concept of why it was happening.”

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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