FealGood takes to film

FealGood takes to film
Local 9/11 advocacy group to spur Congress with documentary
By Jennifer Choi
August 21, 2008 | 12:22 PM

Nesconset resident John Feal's 9/11 advocacy group has made it their job to fight for sick 9/11 responders. Now they're carrying their mission to the big screen with a documentary titled "Save the Brave."

Feal, who founded the FealGood Foundation to spread awareness about the catastrophic health effects faced by 9/11 first responders, has produced a documentary to advocate the passage of the federal 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which would provide medical coverage and financial compensation for responders who have been exposed to toxins at Ground Zero and their families.

According to Feal, who lost half his foot after a beam fell on him at Ground Zero, "Save the Brave" features Jim Ritchie, John McNamara, Greg Quibell and Charlie Giles, four responders who are battling illnesses contracted from Ground Zero. The goal of this film is to "show Congress it's important to push for new laws to be passed for these guys so their families are taken care of when they're gone," Feal said, adding that he will not sell DVDs of the film, but instead hand-deliver them to every member of the United States Congress.

"They're going to see the truth for once," he said. "There are real people who are suffering from their heroic actions on 9/11."

Feal, who recently met with some elected officials in New Jersey, said information about the aftermath of 9/11 is "not being disseminated" outside New York. "We're an isolated group," he noted. "We're like the Vietnam veterans."

Having served as president of the FealGood Foundation for several years, Feal said he asked himself what else he could do to further spread his message. The idea for "Save the Brave" dawned on him while he was stuck in traffic with Anne Marie Baumann, the foundation's senior vice president and secretary, he recalled. "I just said, "Let's make a movie.'"

"It's an adventure working with John," Baumann said, noting that she met him at an American Red Cross group counseling session in 2001.

"I'm so tired of people saying, 'We had no idea,'" she added. "You have no idea now? You will have an idea [after watching the documentary], so we don't have to hear that anymore."

Baumann, whose New York City police officer husband was involved in the 9/11 rescue effort, said that as a result, he suffered temporary sight loss and is now disabled.

"No one understands the impact and what every family has gone through and still goes through every day of their lives," Baumann states on the foundation's website. "It's time to make a difference. It's not something that you can just get over."

"Save the Brave," which will premiere at the Bellmore Theater on Aug. 28 at 7 pm, will be distributed to members of Congress on Sept. 8 to reiterate this sentiment, Feal said.

"Although we were attacked in New York, this country was attacked," he said. "The federal government has been avoiding the problem. It's like they have political amnesia.… Now, it's about solutions and problem solving. You have a chance to help them, and you should be helping them."