On September 11th, 2016, James Hagner will set out to pull Road Scholar Transport’s Rolling Memorial awareness truck, weighing in at 18,222 lbs, wearing just a harness to help raise money for The FealGood Foundation.
Founded by John Feal, a construction worker who lost half of his foot in the rubble of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks and developed WTC Cough, The FealGood Foundation aims to assist 9/11 first responders who were injured and their families, along with helping to spread awareness about the catastrophic health effects 9/11 had on these individuals.
Hagner was one of the responders, a volunteer fireman, that day. “On 9/11 everything stopped. I got there at 8:00 and slept there for two weeks. I didn’t come home and I spent 43 days at the site.”
Hagner, now 44, has been disabled since the age of 36. After enduring a diabetic coma in May 2013, the doctors had told him that he had the lungs of a 92-year-old. “I never had asthma and it began there and worked its way up,” says Hagner. “For being a first responder of 9/11 and a tier 4, I was only given 2years to live.” That’s when things changed.
Four days later, Hagner went on a diet and started working out, losing 144 lbs in only 6 months. “Me being in the United States Marines, I was in the top of my class and graduated with honors. I always excelled in anything I ever done and I gave 110%. I didn’t quit. I went to the gym three times a day and lost a lot of weight.”
But things took a turn. “I weighed 427.6 lbs on Jan. 25, 2016 due to depression, being sick from 9/11 and being on prednisone, and life’s challenges. However, I am well on my way to my 2016 90-day Challenge with Retro Fitness Trainer Pete Sarro in Stroudsburg, PA. Everyone watched me lose weight once, watch me do it again.”
Already Hagner has shown his determination and drive. Having knee surgery last week, he went to the gym an hour later to work out. His leg is healing as if it were 6 weeks post-surgery and he was able to ride a bike in physical therapy for 15 minutes straight just a few days later.
When asked why he came up with the idea of pulling a tractor trailer Hagner said, “I want to show other responders that life isn’t over. As sick as I am, I want to show them that there is still an opportunity to make the best out of life.” But all they needed now was the right truck to pull.
Hagner’s fiance, Sara Jacobson, knew the perfect one. “Sara went online and she seen the Rolling Memorial and thought it would be the perfect truck to pull having all of the names of those who lost their lives on 9/11 on it. Why wouldn’t we want to use Road Scholar’s truck? What Road Scholar did with that truck, I’m honored to be able to try to pull it,” said Hagner.
When asked if he had ever done something like this before Hagner chuckled, “No. I wanted to show that instead of being a sorrowful day, let’s make it into a special day and to help show other responders and people with diabetes and obesity and depression that if I could do it, you could do it. I’m benching over 400 lbs and my back is blown out and my arms are huge and I’m doing over 1000 lbs on my legs so I think I’ll move it somewhat,” he laughed. “Even if I can’t pull it, I know there will be a lot of people there that will help me. We stood together in America that one day and it would be nice to do it again. With everything going around us today, color never mattered to us that day or when I was in the marines. It’s a brotherhood of everything I was always involved with in life. No one ever judged anyone by color, we all bleed red and I think that it’s going to be really special to see a group of people coming together again as one.”
The event will take place Sunday, Sept. 11th from 11 am to 3 pm at East Stroudsburg University of PA. The event is free and will feature live performances, vendors, and a 50/50 raffle containing thousands of dollars in prizes. All proceeds will benefit the FealGood Foundation. Swag Bag giveaways will also be awarded to the first 100 guests.
“When people say I can’t do something, I want to prove them wrong. We all have dreams. Why lie in misery, when you can make dreams happen.” ~Hagner
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