by John Feal
Founder and President
Director of the Zadroga Bill (HR 847)
In slightly more than an hour eleven years ago, nearly three thousand lives were tragically cut far too short. More than three thousand families were instantly re-directed; mourning the loss of their loved ones while wondering how they would navigate their futures without them.
The reaches of September 11th went well past the East and Hudson Rivers. The same terribly historic hour also propelled our nation’s armed forces into battle in two separate countries, causing the loss of hundreds more of this country’s youth and future leaders. Today’s eighteen-year-old servicemen were merely seven-years-old when the fate of their service was determined.
During that same summer hour, thousands of firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, correction officers and emergency personnel converged onto the World Trade Center site in order to save their fellow Americans, hoping their skills and training could save the life of even one person. Soon after, the Twin Towers collapsed. First Responders realized that they would not save their peers, but that their skills would be needed in an entirely different mission, recovery. They would be joined in this mission during the hours, days, weeks and months following the attacks by tens-of-thousands of their brothers and sisters in the construction trades, communication industry and volunteers. The goal of recovery was not limited to the recovery of the personal effects of those lost, but the recovery of this country from one of its darkest moments. Over the next year, the combined efforts of First Responders enabled families to find closure in the burials of their loved ones. They removed the debris from the World Trade Center Site and provided these services with an unmatched dignity, professionalism and heroism.
Eleven years after the attack, thousands of First Responders now suffer from physical impairments as a result of their work “on the pile” and its surrounding impact zone. Despite being assured by leaders in our nation’s capital that the air at the World Trade Center Site was safe to breathe, we now know that this was wholly inaccurate; a lie designed to restore Wall Street to immediate functionality. We now understand that the air at Ground Zero was actually filled with a toxic mixture; a mixture that could take years to reveal its deadly affects. Additionally, thousands of Responders continue to suffer from the psychological impact of what they personally witnessed during their efforts on behalf of this nation. Unprepared for the gruesome war-like discoveries potentially lurking under any pile of debris, Responders continue to visualize these horrific scenes daily. An hour eleven years ago relived nearly twenty-four hours a day for many.
On September, 12th 2001, John Feal and his team of Construction Demolition experts were called to Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan to aid in the cleanup & recovery mission. The greatest city in the world needed expert hands to remove twisted steel, rubble and debris from atop the thousands of people thought to be lost underneath. Having no hesitation, John rushed down to direct his team. Tragically, on Day 5 of the mission John became the mission. While supervising his team, roughly 8,000 pounds of steel came loose from the huge pile and crushed his left foot. After 11 weeks in the hospital, Doctors amputated half of John’s left foot. What John did next was true to his nature; he turned his personal drama into public success.
After his surgery, John experienced hurdle after hurdle with medical bills, time lost from work, overtime not gotten and bills piling up. He heard the word ‘No’ too many times from Insurance Companies, Doctors, and elected officials. John decided right then and there that no American, after serving honorably at Ground Zero for the good of our nation, would be treated like a junk yard dog looking for scraps. The irony is that John’s own reputation closely resembled that same junk yard dog when a member of the US Senate or Congress pushed him aside. In the end, it was Mr. Feal standing on the steps of the United States Congress with a new law proudly and securely in his hands.
John’s determination as an individual was obvious and blatant as a High School student. In high school, he excelled in sports where he was Captain and All County 2x on his wrestling team, and served his community proudly. His had a reputation as a fighter and a person with fortitude. Years after graduating, John’s high school called its alumnus back to be recognized as an Alumni of Recognition. John is one of only 47 past Alumni to have been awarded such recognition. In 2008, John received the New York State Congressional Medal of Honor for Civilians Above and Beyond for his continuous advocacy and for donating a kidney to a complete stranger.
John learned, while serving in the US Army’s Airborne Division, that failure is not an option. He brings that tenacity to his work ethic and every meeting he attends. Once out of the hospital, and without the aid of pain-killers, John made it his mission to alleviate the Heroes of 9/11 from the burdens and hurdles he experienced. He created the FealGood Foundation. Surrounding himself with the best of the best, John has reached plateaus not known to many. His team, led by John’s example, put together a package of gut and will to make sure each and every United States Senator, Congressman and Congresswoman knew the FealGood Foundation’s name, their determination and their inflexibility to never accept ‘No.’
On December 22, 2010, just three days before Christmas, while holding the US Senate and Congress from starting their holiday break, John and his team of Responders and Volunteers watched the proud moment of a unanimous vote by the entire Senate to pass HR 847.
Coming full circle to 2011, the FealGood Foundation and Mr. John Feal have now made it their mission to assure transparency in the new James Zadroga 9/11 Health & Compensation law. John spreads himself between fund-raising for incredibly important causes directly related to the Responders and all those affected by 9/11 and its aftermath, to lobbying the many sub-committees involving the Zadroga law, to holding forums to make sure the Responders know their rights as they pertain to the law. John has been influential in the passing of two bills since 2004, and continues to strive with his grass-roots activism.
Being on top of a pile of rubble can change a man in many ways. Seeing what John saw on those horrific days and smelling and hearing all he did can change you in so many different ways. John realizes his place in this world and is stead-fast in the mission he has been tasked with, in just two words… the Responders.
“Today, the FealGood Foundation aims to assist these First Responders in any way we can. From financial assistance to placing them in the hands of competent legal counsel. From psychological support to assistance enrolling in medical treatment facilities. We have assisted in getting the Zadroga Bill passed so that Responders have proper medical care and compensation for the injuries they sustained. But our work isn’t over. Virtually every day a new Responder reaches out to the FealGood Foundation (FGF) for assistance of some kind. We have, in fact, gotten busier over the past two years. As long as any First Responder needs assistance, the FGF will be there to help. The unfortunate reality is that the FGF was created out of that same fateful hour; we wish its existence had never been necessary but are proud to provide the services.
“Little more than one-twenty-fourth of one day is all it took to forever change the course of the lives of thousands and thousands of people. On this eleventh anniversary, we honor those lost and all those affected by its endless affects”. ~~John Feal
John Feal can be contacted at the phone number, postal address or e-mail below. Please be assured if John’s board member replies to your request it is by John’s own direction. Each and every contact John receives is answered in a timely fashion.