Massage therapist offers healing hands to Ground Zero workers

Posted: Monday, December 17, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Massage therapist Dorothy Burton is bringing her healing hands to the workers at Ground Zero.

Burton will fly to New York City on Christmas Day as part of a newly-formed Alaska team of licensed massage therapists who want to help those dealing with the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Burton, a 1999 graduate of the Massage School of Integrating Shiatsu in Fairbanks, learned of the opportunity in October from friend Tina Melin. Melin, a medical technologist, who travels between her home in Eagle River and Kotzebue, where she works with Native tribal doctors at Maniilaq Corp., is organizing the Alaska emergency massage response team.

Burton, an Athabascan originally from Kaltag, will be the only Alaska Native member of the group. A friend is making kuspuks for her and Melin to distinguish them as part of the Alaska team.

Melin first heard of state response teams made up of massage therapists a couple of years ago at a conference she attended in the Lower 48.

The speaker was Doug Rasmusson, a Florida massage therapist who responded to Hurricane Andrew, the Oklahoma City bombing and flooding in eastern North Carolina. Rasmusson, who is organizing the trip to New York, expects the massage therapists will each spend six to eight hours a day doing chair massages.

In early November Rasmusson traveled to New York City with a team of five to assess the situation. A little more than two weeks ago, Rasmusson was contacted by the New York City mayor's office with work dates and team schedules.

Some teams will be giving massages to the Staten Island workers who are sifting through the rubble removed from Ground Zero.

''There are about 600 to 700 people working on the landfill site doing 24/7s,'' said Rasmusson, ''looking for DNA, body parts and anything else.''

The teams will be giving those workers chair massages at St. Paul's Episcopal Chapel, located about two blocks from Ground Zero.

Teams also will be stationed at John F. Kennedy Airport for Port Authority police officers working security who lost their offices at the trade center.

Teams also will be traveling to different boroughs to offer massages to family assistance workers who have been seeing to the needs of Trade Center victims' families since Sept. 11.

''We don't initiate a conversation. We are there to comfort and get them ready to go back to work again. If they want to talk, we sit there and listen,'' Rasmusson said. ''We are good listeners.''

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