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"YM' says she's cool

Guitars? Sam Ash Music of Tampa has them. Drums? They have those as well.

One of the "20 Coolest Girls in America?"

What do you know, they have her, too.

Nyssa Hanger, who works at the music store, was recognized by YM Magazine in its November issue for helping heroes in New York after Sept. 11, 2001.

"It is truly inspiring to see the wide range of talents and diverse causes that teenage girls today are passionate about," said YM Magazine's editor in chief, Christina Kelly. "We looked all over the country for teenage girls who each in their own way, are making a worthwhile contribution."

Nyssa, then 17, accompanied her mom and other massage and aromatherapists from the Carolina Emergency Rescue Massage Team to New York City. There they gave approximately 5,000 massages to the relief workers and treated them with the appropriate aromatherapy.

"I'm just thankful that I got to turn that experience into something so positive," Nyssa said.

Nyssa assisted a team of 37 massage therapists as they gave 15-minute massages to firefighters and other volunteer workers.

After their massages, many of the workers were still tired. To wake them up, the workers sniffed rosemary and peppermint oil on cotton swabs. Other cases required a special respiratory blend to help clear the dust from the lungs of the relief workers.

Nyssa said working with the firefighters and relief workers was serious and that each volunteer had to undergo a debriefing at the end of the day on post-traumatic stress syndrome.

Sylla Sheppard-Hanger, director of the Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy, said she was moved to tears by her daughter's ability to connect with the strangers. And as for the award from YM, "She was cool about it," Sheppard-Hanger said. "She's been humble about the whole thing in that she never told any of her friends. But I think she was just happy that our work was being recognized publicly and being taken seriously."

Since her trips to New York, Nyssa, now 18 and a student at Tampa's Blake High School, has changed her career goals. She attends the high school because of its creative writing program. But has decided to pursue massage therapy instead of writing, and has dubbed it her ideal occupation.

A ceremony to honor the girls on the list, which included Kelly Osbourne, singers Avril Lavigne and Mandy Moore and actor Jena Malone, was held Oct. 23 in New York. More rewarding than the honor itself, Nyssa said, "were the "thank yous' I'd receive from the people we helped. It was like some sort of immeasurable high."

_ Kelly Bryce, 18, is in 12th grade at Palm Harbor University High School. Information from YM Magazine was used in this report.