John Feal





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.

Learn more about John and how he became a leader in the fight for health benefits of 9/11 responders in PURPOSEFUL.