Chiropractors Lend a Hand at Ground Zero

-Never Forget-

911 Twin Towers Fire

[originally published in KCN, November 2001]

September 11, 2001. There’s no question about the magnitude of the tragedy that occurred on this day — exactly what the terrorists  were looking for.  But what they probably didn’t forecast was the altruistic backlash that rose up because of it.  No, they didn’t tear us down — they built us up.  Made us stronger than we’ve ever been as a nation.  They’ve rekindled a spirit of patriotism that our founding fathers must have had.  The words “United States,” “In God We Trust,” and “God Bless America” now have a deeper, more emotional tie than they’ve ever had for most of us.

Perhaps one of the greatest lessons that has come from all of 911 American Flagthis is the tremendous  debt of gratitude that we owe our nation’s firefighters, police, and paramedics.  Men and women who are all too easily taken for granted, yet they continue to serve and protect us everyday — even if the day happens to be September 11, 2001.

911 FirefighterWhat is perhaps even more remarkable was how we as a nation rallied together and supported their efforts.  Virtually everyone, young and old, pitched in to some degree,  offering what they could:  their time, their talent, their energy, their prayers.  It was this unified effort that  has brought our nation to a new level.

You’ll understand then, why I got a pride-filled lump in my throat when I heard that many of my Eastern colleagues (over 500 of them), on their own accord, had packed up their portable adjusting tables and headed to Ground Zero.

911 Deutchman

Dr. Deutchman ready to serve in the heart of the activity.

Dr. Gary Deutchman, like so many of these chiropractors,  felt a calling to lend a hand.  Knowing his skills as a chiropractor might not  be needed, he headed to the World Trade Center anyway,  ready to shovel dirt or lift buckets.  As it turned out, his skills as a chiropractor proved to be exactly what was needed.  He explained that it was challenging in the beginning, as chiropractors were not yet officially recognized as service providers.  Quick thinking and talking were in order on multiple occasions for Dr. Deutchman  as he made his way past barricades secured by policemen and  National Guard soldiers.  His persistent maneuvering eventually brought him into the heart of the activity.

Listen to Interview with the Gary Deutchman, D.C.

“…Thousands of uniformed firemen, policemen, and tradesmen were waiting to enter the destruction site.  I was surrounded by equipment of all types, twisted metal and vehicles, buildings I once admired, now with shattered metal and glass hanging overhead,” Dr. Deutchman explained.

Deutchman wasn’t the only chiropractor to forge his way to the center.  Dr. Glenn Scarpelli of Manhattan said about Ground Zero, “You could feel the energy.  You could feel the death in the air.”

911 Tower RubleStill another D.C., Holly Tidwell,  related the intensity of the scene by stating, “Take what you see on TV and multiply it by 20 and you have a clearer picture of how it is here.”

Despite these horrific circumstances, Dr. Deutchman knew he was in the right place. “My desire to share my gift told me this was the place to set up camp.”

Deutchman continued his story, “As the crowds of policemen, soldiers, firemen, and tradesmen came out of the destruction zone after hours of digging, passing buckets, and other more technical jobs, I would shout out, ‘Chiropractic over here, who’s next for chiropractic?’  Some people looked at me like I had two heads.  Others would come over, so thankful we were there.”  Fifteen hours later, he had treated several hundred people.

911 Chiropractor 3jpgChiropractic care was offered round the clock.  “Everyone is getting adjusted,”  reported Dr. Tidwell, “…the National Guard, the task force teams, the police, the Firefighters, the Red Cross and Salvation Army workers, the ironworkers, the volunteers…any and everyone.”  She even added, “The dogs come back exhausted as well, and we have DC’s to adjust them and then they get massaged too.”

“If I was told once, I was told 100 times, how thankful everyone was that we were there to care for them.  It was my honor to take care of these people,” chiropractor, Mark Guarino said.  “They were there from every walk of life and were giving of themselves daily.  I just did it for one night, with a lot of coffee.”

Commenting on the physical and emotional intensity of the situation, Tidwell stated, “It is admittedly sometimes hard to go back, but then you realize what they are going through and you want to.”

The press started including chiropractors in their reports.  An article running in The Beacon News led off, “Children handed out letters of thanks.  Chiropractors offered adjustments.  The American Red Cross gave away hugs.”

911 Chiropractor 1

Dr. Glenn Scarpelli gives an adjustment at Ground Zero.

CNN reported in a story online, “Across the street from the World Trade Center, a Burger King with its windows blown out is a break area where food is served.  The space next door — which used to be a shop — is now a rest area where volunteers give massages and chiropractic adjustments to weary workers.”

911 Chiropractor Davis

Robert Davis, D.C. adjusting a rescue worker

It wasn’t long until the chiropractors gained credentialing as “official providers.”  Chiropractic associations secured permanent sanctioned locations at  one of the high schools for hundreds of weary rescue workers to come and have their “power turned on.”  Not all of the chiropractors were satisfied with this arrangement, however.  Some wanted to be closer to the action.  And, as with Dr. Deutchman, the tight security was only a minor road block in their determination. Some chiropractors were able to get a hold of passes that gave them higher levels of clearance, while others were able to quickly make friends with the right people.  I read about a couple chiropractors that befriended a high ranking National Guard officer.  Their efforts got them a ride in a camouflaged hummer to the site of destruction.  Another chiropractor told of being driven in the back of a John Deer Gator non-stop through police checkpoints to the Red Cross ship, docked at Battery Park, where rescue workers were able to grab a meal and rest.

911 Chiropractor 2

Glenn Scarpelli, D.C. works round-the-clock caring for the physically and emotionally drained rescue workers.

Dr. Deutchman also eventually made it to this ship.  “I brought my portable table over to the ship and set up in the middle of the busiest area.  I went up to one really large fireman and asked him if he wanted to get adjusted.  I told him once everyone saw him get adjusted there would be a line, so he should be the first to get adjusted.  He agreed, and the whole main deck was watching this guy in a white lab coat (me) adjust this big fireman.  The place got a little quiet;  I made my adjustment; and the guy got up and said, ‘Wow.  That was amazing.’  For the next few hours, I had a line of people from every type of law enforcement agency and fire department from here to Canada waiting in line.  Many of the people had never had a chiropractic adjustment [before].”

Chiropractic is being practiced in its purest sense at Ground Zero.  “There are no x-rays, no exams, no paperwork, insurance, HMO acceptance, etc…just a lot of adjusting and a lot of love,” explained Michael Dorausch, D.C.

911 Flag Towers“We’re using just our hands and adjusting people from our hearts,” Dr. Scarpelli summed up.  “People are lying down, we’re adjusting them, and they’re getting up with a smile….People are thrilled we’re there.”

What a gift these chiropractors were able to give to the  mentally and physically overloaded  rescue workers.  Dr. Andrew Lacerenza, president of the New York State Chiropractic Association, stated that the stresses these workers were experiencing were beyond what we can even imagine.  Even with that, he felt the chiropractic effort was making a “visible difference” —a difference that is hopefully offering a little relief to this tragic event.

911 Memorial Lights

September 11 Memorial Lights

Dr. Dorausch reported that many chiropractors told him that the care being provided was not necessarily about aches and pains, but rather was about “connecting man the physical with man the spiritual.”  Chiropractors, regardless of their philosophical backgrounds, were “narrowing down their focus for a single purpose…move a bone and allow God to do the healing.”

Now that’s an  adjustment we could all use.

_____________
sources used for this article:
Blair.  Chiropractic relief effort:  adjusting from our hearts. Chiropractic Economics.  October 2001.
Connecticut chiropractors provide care at ground zero. http://www.planetc1.com.  10/03/01.
Deutchman.  My world trade center experience — a diary. Dynamic Chiropractic.  19 (22).  10/22/01.
Dorausch.  Chiropractors at ground zero in the news. http://www.planetc1.com.  09/25/01.
Dorausch.  Our American heros. http://www.planetc1.com.  10/08/01.
Guarino.  A chiropractors experience at ground zerohttp://www.planetc1.com.  10/10/01.

Addendum notes:

1) In the September 2003 edition of the Kingston Community News, I ran the above article as a rerun with the following preface:  At last month’s KIngston Chamber of Commerce Round Table Meeting, Kitsap resident Earl Johnson sat on stool before an audience of about 30 to share a life changing story that had occurred just 736 days previous.  You see, Earl had been working in New York.   His business was located in the World Trade Center’s North Tower.  The date was 9/11/01.  Need I say more?  For the first time I — and I suspect the same for the rest of the audience — was able to hear a first hand account of how what seemed to start off as an “ordinary day at the office,” turned into something that would change his life, and that of our nation, forever.  What was particularly moving for me personally, and something that I was not expecting, was that hearing Earl speak made it “real.”  For most of us on the West Coast, our only connection with the tragedy was via television — the same medium we turn to for fantasy and make-believe.  Let’s face it, we see things blow up on TV all the time!  Even though I inherently knew what I was watching was real, there still was an element of detachment.  Thanks to Earl’s story,  I now feel more connected to the historically tragic day of 9/11.  So as we look now at the second anniversary in our rearview mirrors, let us not forget.  Hearing Earl’s story inspired me to go the the Spinal Column Archives and pull up an article that I thought would never see a rerun — but now I realize it needs to, so we won’t forget.    — Dr. Lamar
2) In 2004 the Journal of Vertebral Subluxation Research published a historical overview of the chiropractic efforts surrounding the September 11th tragedy, complete with some of the photos above.  In their article they estimated that approximately 1,500 chiropractors donated over $1.5 million in services, adjusting up to 500 patients per day.
3) Update 2010:  I just ran across a recording of Earl Johnson (mentioned above in #1) telling his story on Townhall.com.  Definitely worth listening to.  I also found out that he authored a 2005 book on his experience entitled Stairwell to Heaven:  A 9-11 World Trade Center Survivor’s Story.
4) Update 09/11/2010:  Listen to my SpinalColumnRadio interview with Dr. Gary Deutchman — one of the first chiropractors on scene at Ground Zero — and hear a 9/11 story that somehow was overlooked by the round-the-clock media coverage.  You’ll hear first-hand, from a chiropractor who was there to help, what it was like.  In this interview, he shares with our listeners memories of this tragic event that he has not thought about for nearly nine years.
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