MELTING BOUNDARIES: Emergency Responders Discover Bodywork after 9/11

This diary entry was published in counterPULSE (a San Francisco-based journal) as a sidebar to an interview by Chris Carlsson with Karen Brown, a volunteer massage therapist from the Olive Leaf Wellness Center in Manhattan.


Today I went and did my first shift doing volunteer massage at Pier 94, the Family Assistance Center, which has been remarkably efficiently set up to help the families of people who died in the WTC -- 6000 people [later revised to slightly less than 3000] whose deaths affected who knows how many more. The massage room was in constant demand. By room I mean an area sectioned off by hanging sheets, open to the rafters, constant draft from hyper air conditioner and smells of overcooked veggies from the adjacent staff cafeteria. There were four other masseurs at work when I arrived. 

I set up at a table and once I started didnít stop for three hours. I felt awkward at first trying to figure out how to deliver a satisfying massage in 20 minutes to fully clothed people, some of them policemen with their shoes AND gun-belts on. I got better as time went on, but I was still tentative about touching anyone below the waist. I watched two other very experienced masseurs work on people with great assurance. Kathleen is the star babe at table #1, every copís dream masseur. I worked on a couple of people who are volunteers at the center (Phillip and Yvonne), a policewoman (Michelle), two policemen (Richard and William), and two family members (Ruth and Juana). They were all grateful. I found it soothing to offer touch, not a lot of talk. I didnít have to find out their whole story. Small ordinary acts of kindness toward other ordinary people -- nothing heroic, nothing grandiose. 

I did walk away with my erotic fantasies about cops fully engaged. If they set up a booth for giving head to policemen in uniform, Iíd be the first in line.