Adjusting at Ground Zero
November 1st was a clear 75-degree day. My good friend and colleague, Blaise and I arrived at the Red Cross Center in Brooklyn in the morning for credentialing. The process took about an hour. When we were there we met up with another chiropractor, Dr. Dan from Long Island who kindly offered to drive us to the site. As we drove over the Brooklyn Bridge, I had a strange feeling of anxiety. Looking at the skyline was so eerie. Those two behemoth towers were gone! When we got over the bridge, it seemed like business as usual but Dan warned us just a few blocks away was something you could never prepare for. We started to smell an offensive odor that is unforgettable. When we arrived at checkpoint one the police officer asked to show our Red Cross ID. When he let us through I realized we’re going into a “war zone”. We parked the car and donned our hard hats, safety goggles and masks. Dan informed us that we must wear these at all times or we could get hit with a $4,000 dollar fine. As we headed out on foot and arrived at checkpoint two, I became numb as we were closing in on this horrendous scene. Then a feeling of deep anger, hatred and resentment for the people who did this atrocity overcame me. I felt as though we were in hell. I turned to Blaise and said, “those wicked bastards”. We kept walking and made the turn at checkpoint three. My God, we were smack in the middle of the “red zone”. This was the most horrific and devastating thing I have ever seen. It was truly a war zone and pictures on TV and newsprint do not show the enormity of it all. If anything will strengthen your resolve about our president’s orders to fight for our freedom and hunt these “evil doers” down at ALL COSTS, visiting ground zero sure will. When we walked by the water I noticed the proud and stoic symbol of freedom, Lady Liberty on my right. Then when I looked left my heart sank to deep sadness when I saw the “makeshift memorial” of all the pictures in the thousands of the missing and the dead. I shed tears, said a brief prayer and moved on. Now I am realizing that I am experiencing the biggest emotional rollercoaster ride of my entire life. EVER! I started to ask myself, how can I “pick myself up” and adjust when I get to the Marriott respite center?
Finally arriving at our destination we were kindly welcomed outside the entrance by the volunteers who hosed our feet of the soot and the muck. At that point it was as though someone turned a switch on my body. Even realizing with possibly some human remains on my shoes, my whole attitude changed. After showing our identification again, we walked into the heavily damaged Marriott and went to the adjusting and massage area on the second floor around 2:20 PM. As we relieved the early shift chiropractors, I felt a warm, loving feeling. Special people were arriving to have chiropractic care. I felt a strong sense of compassion, pride, and admiration for all these heroes working at ground zero. I was honored to offer my services to the firefighters, police, National Guard, crane operators, and all the rescue personnel who came by that day. These true patriots were really making a difference. I hope that I made a difference that day by lending an ear and serving them with chiropractic adjustments. Their emotional and physical stress was indeed taking its toll. I assured them the adjustment to their spine would help them better cope with this enormous stress they are under. It was fulfilling for me to help free up nerve energy to people at a time when they needed it the most. Some never went to a chiropractor before but simply knew it would help and barely said a word until they got off the table. I thanked them for their great service to our country and they were so appreciative of us being there. When our shift ended and our relief arrived around 8:20pm, I felt energized and grateful that we have such wonderful people in our country who come together at a time of need. None of us knew each other before that day but it was as though we were one huge family doing God’s work. I also felt prouder than ever to be an American. God Bless the souls of those lost, the loved ones they leave behind, all the courageous men and women protecting our land and defending our freedom, the heroes at ground zero, and God Bless America.
Bill Schroeder, D.C.
Adjusting at Ground Zero - Day 2
Our second day of adjusting at Ground Zero was Sunday, December 16th, 2001. The horrible toxic smell was gone. The fires were finally out in the pit. Dr. Blaise Glodowski and I reported to St. Paul’s Chapel at close to 2:00 pm. The WTC was located immediately behind the chapel. Miraculously it was not damaged with the collapse of the towers. On the outside perimeter were hundreds of banners on the fence with signatures of students from various schools around the country with cards, pictures and letters of admiration and sorrow. Before we entered the church we walked outside and joined hundreds of people slowly filing past the front of the church in dazed shock viewing hundreds of photos of loved ones lost in the attack. You could hear a pin drop at this temporary memorial.
We were received warmly by the Chapel Priest who took us on a quick tour. As we entered the chapel, a chill ran down my spine when I noticed literally thousands of cards, banners and letters from around the world expressing love and condolences to the people of NYC. The chapel, the oldest building in the city, built in 1766 was serving as the new respite center for the police and firemen who were working around the clock. Volunteers from various church congregations in the area worked long hours serving hot meals.
As we took our positions inside to begin adjusting the firemen, police and rescue personal, I noticed that the adjusting area was immediately next to George Washington’s pew. This is where the first president came to pray following his inaugural in 1789.
Emotions were still high and once again it was a real honor to adjust and provide some comfort to all the special people who were working so hard to recover their brothers and sisters. I will never forget the look on the faces of the officers and firemen as they entered this sacred place for food, water, rest, comfort, massage, prayer and of course the chiropractic adjustments that were so necessary and so helpful in this time of high stress. One officer told me with stress and pain on his face, “Doc, the hardest part of looking for fellow officers is only finding a badge and a gun”
A female police officer in the food line looked so distraught and full of stress. I approached her and asked how she was doing. She responded, “Not so good. It’s so hard, so very hard”. As she fought back tears and I choked up, I quietly asked if she wanted an adjustment. She glanced up at me with a twinkle in her eye and asked, “Are you a chiropractor”? When I responded “yes” she perked right up and smiled. She said that she was so thrilled because chiropractic helped her with her pregnancy. After I adjusted her, she gave me a big hug and said “Thank you so much for being here”. Her attitude completely changed after that. It was like turning on a switch. This emotional moment was one of many that I will never forget. Another officer approached me with anguish on his face. Again, we were in a very somber setting but after his adjustment, the officer jumped up off the table and shouted with laughter, “Wow that was the best crack I ever had!” I thought, Oh my God! What have I done? Then I realized, in times of grief and sorrow, there are also moments of relief, compassion, and joy.
About mid way in our shift, two armed customs agents approached the adjusting area. They were in from California doing security at the site. In conversation with us they mentioned the unbelievable view from the observation deck. They offered to take us up. This observation deck located in the closed financial center was only open to security personal. We followed the two agents right up to the outside deck. The view was shocking and beyond belief. We were actually looking down into the entire ground zero site, right into the pit. We could not believe we were looking into a tomb where thousands of Americans were just murdered on the biggest attack on our homeland. We couldn’t believe our eyes! We were too stunned and too numb to cry. As I looked down into the pit, one of the agents pointed to the dogs next to the firemen. The officer explained that the dogs were sniffing for human DNA and body parts before the debris was to be loaded onto trucks. We took photos that were only taken after the agents told us to do so because they said that we will never have that opportunity again. It felt somewhat awkward, but I thought even though it was a tomb, it was a moment in history. I said a private prayer and took out my camera.
When we returned to the church to continue adjusting, the gut wrenching view that I just saw kept flashing through my head. It felt like a dream. These people who we were adjusting, were actually down there in that pit retrieving body parts and fragments of innocent human beings and true heroes, the fellow officers, and firemen who gave the ultimate sacrifice to help save others. They were just in that HELL HOLE that I just saw from the observation deck moments earlier. The tear jerking moment of seeing that burial ground will be transfixed in my memory for ever.
Occasionally I would have a few minutes of free time to walk through the chapel in between adjusting and would read the incredible letters from school children, parents, fellow firemen, police, and foreigners all expressing their words of support to the families of loved ones lost. This was so inspirational and emotional that you can’t help but periodically break down in tears in this incredible place of healing energy and love.
All the volunteers spent enormous time and effort to bring the city back and help all the folks who suffered with a loss that cannot be measured. At times, simple hugs seemed to do the trick. At other times, a chiropractic adjustment is just what was needed to break up the stress of a 16 hour day for the rescue teams. It was nice to be there once again participating in some small way to know that the healing touch of chiropractic in God’s House is just what was necessary to help get through the day.
God Bless all our Heroes.
God Bless the souls of those lost.
God Bless America
Bill Schroeder, D.C.