Muslims from Baitun Nasir Mosque in Sharon, host a blood drive within Massachusetts Boston Children’s Hospital Blood Donor Center Bloodmobile, parked outside the Boston City Hall on April 19, 2019. Photo by Aysha Khan.

At Boston Marathon bombing anniversary, local Muslims host blood drive

BOSTON (RNS) – Six years after the deadly Boston Marathon bombing, a local mosque continues to host an annual blood drive in honor of those affected by the terror attack.

Monday's 123rd running of the Boston Marathon marked the sixth anniversary of the attack, which left three people dead and more than 260 injured, as well as the first time the marathon was run on the exact anniversary of the bombing. At 2:49 p.m. — six years to the moment when the first bomb exploded at the finish line – the Boston Athletic Association held a moment of silence, and the bells at nearby Old South Church were rung.

Days after the race, as they have for six years, members of the Baitun Nasir Mosque in suburban Sharon, Massachusetts, collected more than 30 blood donations on Friday at Boston City Hall.

“(Our community) holds this special blood drive every year to honor those affected by the Boston Marathon tragedy, help humanity and to emphasize true Islam's teaching regarding the sanctity of life,” organizer Nasir Rana said.

“We want to tell the people that the only blood Muslims shed is to help humanity,” he said.

The blood donations will help patients at Boston Children's Hospital, which partnered with the mosque for the drive.

“I feel really good doing it, especially to help the kids who are sick,” said Alia Mahmud, who donated blood for the first time and says she brought her two children to show them “that it’s important to help people.”

Safdar Mahmud, her husband, is a social studies teacher at a local charter school.

“It’s one thing to teach students about civic duty, and another to model that civic duty for them to learn to be better citizens and leaders in our community,” he said after donating blood.

The project is part of the nationwide Muslims For Life campaign, which organizers say has collected more than 60,000 pints of blood and helped save more than 160,000 lives since 2010, to honor victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Baitun Nasir has hosted Sept. 11 anniversary blood drives at local police departments for years.

Immediately after the bombings shook the city, Rana said, they began brainstorming ways to extend the effort to honor the victims of the Boston Marathon attack.

The resulting blood drive, held on the six-month anniversary of the bombing, included high-profile attendees, including the city’s mayor, police commissioner, state representatives as well as now-Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley.

Tom Grilk, CEO of the Boston Athletic Association, the group responsible for organizing the Boston Marathon each year, also attended.

“It was symbolic of the fact that in tragedy people can come together, people who care can come together,” Grilk said of the blood drives in a speech to the community last year. “The blood drives stood for the proposition that we are all of us one community in the eyes of God, and that we are never better than when we remember that.”

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