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9/11 First Responder Discusses His Life-Changing Injury, The Aftermath, and Jon Stewart

July 11, 2023
00:00 45:41
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John Feal was not an activist; he was a carpenter and a demolition specialist from Long Island, New York. He was a 9/11 responder, and while at the site on September 17, a piece of steel crushed his left foot. He twice applied for compensation from the September 11th Relief Fund, and was denied—even though his injury had been deemed “life-threatening and catastrophic.” Because it occurred ninety-six hours after the initial event, he didn’t qualify for assistance.

"I had to eat a lot of humble pie to realize that I’m fallible and I can get hurt and I can lose half a body part and I can bleed.” -John on recognizing his own vulnerabilities and how that fueled his desire to help others.

The experience made John realize that he was vulnerable—and so were other injured 9/11 responders. “When I got hurt on September 17, that was, at the time, the worst day of my life. Little did I know it’d probably be the most important day of my life,” he told me. “My injury was gruesome and horrific. And I know now that it pales in comparison to those who are deathly ill or who have passed away. I am so minute and so small compared to these men and women in uniform and non-uniform that are dying every day or every week from 9/11-related illnesses.”

For the past fifteen years, John has been working tirelessly for health benefits for 9/11 responders who suffered devastating injuries and illnesses in the aftermath of the cleanup work they did at Ground Zero.

FealGood Foundation:


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Meet Your Host
Josh Cohen is a journalist and commentator living out of the Midwest.

He has written for a number of reputable publications.

His fascination with history is in the story of our existence and how it is told. Keeping the tradition of storytelling alive in Eyewitness History is what drives him.
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