Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is giving up the State of the Union ticket that would normally go to her husband, Jonathan to a different John – construction worker John Feal…
New York Senator Kirten Gillibrand’s guest at President Obama’s State of the Union Address won’t be her husband – it will be 9/11 first responder John Feal.
Feal, who made 89 trips to Washington, D.C. to lobby for the passage of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, became notorious for storming into Congress members’ offices and demanding meetings without an appointment, lost part of his foot working as a construction supervisor at the World Trade Center site. He served as a driving force behind the passage of the legislation last month, earning praise from many congressional leaders, including Gillibrand.
“After everything our 9/11 responders sacrificed and gave to our nation, we owe them a debt we can never repay,” said Gillibrand, the bills chief Senate sponsor. “Fulfilling our moral obligation to the survivors and heroes of 9/11 by providing them with the care they need is a moment every American can be proud of, and an example of what this Congress is capable of when we put politics aside, work together, and do what is right.”
Tuesday night will actually be Feal’s second time at the State of the Union. In 2007 his Congressman, Rep. Tim Bishop (D – Long Island) brought him as his guest. Feal says he told Gillibrand that he had gone before and that she could pick someone who had never gone before, but she insisted on him, saying that he embodied the spirit of all 9/11 workers.
“I told Senator Gillibrand – when she called – I said if there was someone else she should bring them, because I had gone before, but she said it was okay,” a modest Feal told glowbass.com. “I’m not one for accolades – I’m not one for glory.”
Feal says that while he understands that the president has a lot of important issues to discuss in his speech, “many in the September 11 community would hope that he’d mention the Zadroga Bill.”
But going to the speech and meeting the president aren’t what Feal says he’s most looking forward to. Since the bill was signed while Obama was on vacation in Hawaii, 9/11 responders had no bill signing to attend.
But Gillibrand, Senator Charles E. Schumer (D – NY) and the AFL-CIO are making up for that – hosting a reception marking the bill signing on Tuesday evening and Feal says he’s looking forward to making his 90th trip to the Capitol – this time with an engraved invitation – and he’s bringing some friends. Feal is chartering buses to bring a group of first responders down from New York City to celebrate.
“This trip will be very special,” Feal said in a phone interview. “We as a community haven’t had an opportunity to celebrate and it’ll be a great day.”
As for himself, Feal says he and his Feal Good Foundation are already moving forward with their next mission – making sure the law is properly implemented by July.
glowbass.com will have comprehensive coverage of the president’s State of the Union Address, which is scheduled for January 25 at 9 p.m.
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Contact Michael A. Harris at [email protected]