The American Red Cross is holding blood drives today in Council Bluffs and Omaha in honor of a southwest Iowa man.

Fred Wilson is one of the people who was shot — and survived — after a gunman opened fire in December of 2007 in a department store at Westroads Mall in Omaha. Wilson says he underwent several surgeries and a blood transfusion.

“I’m an example of someone who needed blood, who needed help,” Wilson says. “(The Red Cross) made it possible for me to live to tell the tale today.” Wilson is a retired Council Bluffs teacher and he was working at the Von Maur customer service counter when he was critically wounded by the shots. The teenage gunman killed eight people, then took his own life.

Wilson hopes today’s blood drive is successful as there’s always a demand. “The need for blood is great and one never knows when one will need blood,” Wilson says. “It impacts all of us.” Wilson recognizes he owes his life to the fast-thinking first responders, the doctors at the hospital and to the Red Cross.

“They’re there to help people who are in need,” Wilson says. “I, of course, was made more aware of this as a result of 2007.” An Iowan was also among the eight people killed by the gunman: 65-year-old John McDonald of Council Bluffs.

Today’s blood drive runs until 6:30 PM at the Loess Hills Blood Donation Center in Council Bluffs and at the Omaha Red Cross chapter on South 80th Avenue.

(Thanks to Karla James, Omaha)