John Feal is a survivor, again.
He nearly lost his life at the World Trade Center on 9/11, and this year he had another brush with death when he contracted the coronavirus.
"I haven't been scared since I was in the hospital for 11 weeks after 9/11, fighting for my life,” said Feal, who’s the founder of the Feal Good Foundation. “This scared me.”
He contracted the virus in March, just a week after he made a video warning those with 9/11-related illnesses about the seriousness of COVID-19.
"We are all compromised in the 9/11 community. Do not take this for granted," he said in the Facebook video.
Feal is a first responder-turned-advocate who played a key role in convincing Congress last year to fund the September 11 Victim Compensation Program through 2092.
He was working on the pile at the World Trade Center site when a beam fell and landed on his foot.
"Roughly 8,000 pounds of steel crushed my left foot and I remember it like it was yesterday,” said Feal.
Feal knows all about pain after experiencing 30 surgeries, but he says nothing prepared him for COVID, which in his case included severe pneumonia.
"My skin hurt. My hair on my body hurt. I could not breathe," said Feal.
He said he is forever changed by the two experiences.
"Just like on 9/11 and now with the COVID, 19 years later, I don't feel the same,” said Feal. “Physically and mentally, it's changed me and usually when something bad happens to John Feal he turns around and does good. You know, I donated plasma eight times when I got healthy. I teamed up with Micheal Barash from Barash and McGarry and we donated $50,000 in masks and PPE's to the FDNY, the NYPD, hospitals, nursing homes. We spent over $100,000 feeding those hospitals and fire houses and police departments.”
Now he's turning his focus on the upcoming anniversary.
His annual ceremony on Long Island will include a special tribute to the nearly 40 9/11 survivors who died from COVID-19, and comforting those who are forever changed by the horrific attack and the aftermath.
"While it doesn't have the physical and mental impact it did on me in previous years, if i shut my eyes, the smell of Ground Zero will engulf me and that's the hardest thing to overcome," said Feal.
While September 11 will be tough, he said the hardest day for him will be September 17. That's the day he nearly lost his life, now 19 years ago, the last time he was scared, before coming down with COVID-19.