DAYTON — Maybe it was the gray skies and early spring thunderstorm warnings that made Tipp City donor Brian Harbison think back to a frightening day as a young boy growing up in Xenia.
Brian had come to the Dayton Community Blood Center Thursday, March 31, to make his milestone 100th blood donation. His dedication to neighbors helping neighbors may have taken root on a dark day 42 years ago.
Brian served in the U.S. Air Force and got out in 1989. Brian and his wife Kimberly will celebrate their 17th anniversary in October. In May he will have worked 19 years at the main USPS facility in Dayton.
He began donating with CBC in 2005, regularly giving whole blood at Tipp City United Methodist or Ginghamsburg Church blood drives. He became a platelet and plasma donor in 2013. His more frequent apheresis donations helped quicken the pace toward his milestone 100th donation.
“I usually do platelet and plasma, but they just need plasma today,” said Brian. “I try to come every two weeks. It’s part of my life.”
Also part of his life is the memory of the tornado that struck Xenia on April 3, 1974. It was part of a super outbreak, when 148 twisters swept across several states, killing 335 people in a 16-hour period. It still ranks as one of the largest natural disasters in American history. Xenia was the hardest hit community with 33 killed and 1,300 injured.
“I was 12 years old,” said Brian. “I can remember it like it was yesterday. I still can’t believe more people didn’t get killed.” Brian was a student at McKinley Elementary School, one of five schools destroyed that day. “They closed school and we got out around 2:30 p.m.” he said. “If we had been there when it hit, it would have killed us all. We were lucky. I’m still surprised more people didn’t die than did.”
Brian and his family survived the tornado, but their home was damaged. They were forced to move, but returned to Xenia as soon as they could.
Perhaps it’s the memory of how so much harm can come suddenly to a community that later inspired Brian to help others through blood donations. To him, being a “Donor for Life” is a very simple commitment. “I started doing it,” he said. “The people are nice! I don’t understand why more people don’t do it.”