Chiropractor moved by NYC visit
Dr. Nicholas J. Senuta feels guilty.
Guilty that he left after three days at ground zero. Guilty that he couldn’t do more. Humbled by the whole experience.
The Latrobe chiropractor was one of hundreds in his profession who spent time in the past three weeks giving relief to the relief workers – adjusting the backs and necks of those tough firefighters, policemen and construction workers who have been spending day after day in the rubble where the World Trade Center once stood.
‘When the people would say to us, ‘Thank you,’ there was a lot of emotion,’ Senuta said. ‘When the people would say ‘Thank you,’ and the thank-you was for us being there, I’d say, ‘No, the thank-you is for you.’
‘To me, it’s nothing compared to what those people are doing 24 hours a day,’ Senuta said. ‘Right now, when we’re sitting here, it continues in New York.’
Senuta spent last Thursday through Saturday in Manhattan.
He already had been planning a business trip to New York, so after the attack, he contacted a fellow doctor there and they worked together with various agencies to get security clearance.
‘It was just one of those things I had to do,’ Senuta said. ‘I felt guilty leaving.’
The chiropractors are treating hundreds of rescue workers every day inside blown-out storefronts, in chairs in the street and on a Red Cross boat, Senuta said.
‘You went from one area to another area, to another area,’ he said. ‘We would just walk in, adjust 10 to 12 people in one storefront, walk next door and do the same thing.’
Chiropractors in the New York area went to the site from the beginning. ‘They did not go back to their practices, and actually slept at ground zero,’ Senuta said.
The outpouring of help from hundreds of doctors from across the country has been overwhelming, said Barbara Contessa of the New York Chiropractic Council.
‘It’s been amazing,’ she said. ‘I can’t even handle all the paperwork that’s coming through.’
Contessa said the help is sorely needed. ‘(The relief workers) need it, and they appreciate it,’ she said.
The sights, smells and sounds Senuta experienced were difficult for him to describe.
‘The odor was unbelievable,’ he said. ‘I can only imagine what it was originally. They’re not going to find (all the victims). The entanglement of this pile – beams and beams of steel just twisted. There is really no real way, no true way of sharing the snapshots that are in my head.’
He saw skyscrapers that surrounded the World Trade Center, their windows blown out and now standing empty, hulking blocks of concrete and steel.
‘You can only imagine what happened to the people who were in there,’ Senuta said.
He saw family members being bused in and touring ground zero.
‘It was, to say the least, humbling and horrific,’ he said.
Senuta especially remembers one pipefitter, his face and clothes dirty from the emotionally and physically draining work. The pipefitter, wearing a hard hat and a 16-to-20-pound work belt, walked in for an adjustment.
‘To me, that was the strength of America right there,’ Senuta said. ‘He was working right in the meat of the pile, and (after the adjustment) he put his belt on and went right straight out to the pile.’
And Senuta heard the horror stories of people who were there Sept. 11.
People walking up to ground level from the subway in time to see the first plane hit the tower. In time to run from the devastation. In time to see those next to them killed by the storm of concrete, glass and steel.
‘Their skyline is gone, and people who were in the community were outside watching this whole event,’ Senuta said.
He first volunteered his time for the disaster efforts after receiving a memo from the Pennsylvania Chiropractic Association. The FBI was looking for chiropractors at the United Airlines Flight 93 crash site near Shanksville, Somerset County.
The chiropractors worked in a tent and adjusted the backs of investigators and volunteers, Senuta said. He was there for two days. Other local chiropractors who joined the effort included Dr. Evelyn Lemmon of Ligonier, Dr. Samuel H. Sarraf III of Latrobe and Dr. Marcia Ainsley of Donegal.
Gene Veno, executive vice president of the Pennsylvania Chiropractic Association, said his organization put together a database of doctors willing to help in the days after the attacks, enabling the International Chiropractic Association and the New York Chiropractic Council to contact them directly.
At least 15 chiropractors went to the Shanksville area, he said. Others went to the Pentagon and New York City sites, although Veno is not sure of numbers.
‘There’s been a tremendous outpouring of help that’s been going on in the last couple of weeks,’ Veno said. ‘I think there will be an additional need for doctors from Pennsylvania because this is far from over.’
Senuta has been in touch with the FBI and the Red Cross to get clearance for another trip in a couple weeks. Other local chiropractors may join him.
Senuta hopes that this experience will help make disaster relief organizations realize the need for chiropractors and massage therapists in the future. The Red Cross has not asked for those specialists in the past, he said.
‘Hopefully, disaster teams will also include chiropractors and massage therapists to be able to help the people out who are doing work for all of us,’ he said.
Senuta also hopes to help in another way. While walking through a small neighborhood in Brooklyn, he came across a firehouse. Twelve people who worked out of the firehouse were lost in the attacks.
He is hoping local folks can send cards, checks or other donations to his office to help the 12 families so that ‘locally, we know we can specifically touch the lives of these 12 families.’
Donations for the Squad 1 Benefit Fund can be sent in care of the Chiropractic Health Center, 2300 Cedar Ave., Latrobe, PA 15650.
‘Out of the bad, I also saw the good, and the good is looking at all of us pulling together and doing the things that need to be done in spite of the terrorism,’ Senuta said.