20 years after serving at Ground Zero, NJ man receives double lung transplant
Tony Moyet avoided an untimely death on Sept. 11, 2001 while saving people who were fleeing from Lower Manhattan during the terrorist attacks.
Earlier this year, Moyet's life was the one saved, when he underwent a must-have surgery to correct a condition that medical professionals connect to his time spent at Ground Zero.
"Right now, I breathe fresh air, I walk around, I help around the house," Moyet tells New Jersey 101.5. "I'm looking for another 20 years-plus."
Moyet, 65, received a double lung transplant at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center on July 4. Doctors call it a miracle because Moyet had only been on the waiting list for one day before receiving a call about a match.
Moyet, a resident of Jersey City at the time, was serving as captain of a NY Waterway ferry when the Twin Towers crashed to the ground on 9/11.
Following the initial plane crashes, people started fleeing toward the water as a way to escape the terror.
"I was in front of the North Tower. When it came down, if it had come down sideways I wouldn't be here. It would have fallen over on my boat," Moyet said.
Moyet estimates he transported more than 100 boatloads of people out of New York that day. As a company, according to Moyet, NY Waterway moved hundreds of thousands of individuals to safety.
"I don't consider myself a hero," Moyet said. "I just consider myself a person who happened to be in this bad situation, trying to do the best that he can."
But his service didn't stop after shipping people to safer ground. Moyet and his colleagues visited Ground Zero that night to supply refreshments for first responders. And for the next year and a half, Moyet would continue to bring over much-needed equipment, supplies and food to those working at the World Trade Center site.
And in 2018, the Bloomfield resident started feeling symptoms that doctors would later attribute to his work at Ground Zero.
"I couldn't breathe," he said. "I actually thought I had pneumonia."
Moyet, a nonsmoker, was diagnosed with COPD, which quickly developed into an end-stage form of the pulmonary disease. In December 2019, he was told he had up to six months to live, and in 2020, he was living on artificial oxygen around the clock.
Moyet was designated as a "certified first responder," which made him eligible for medical assistance through the World Trade Center Health Program.
Moyet would continue living through the coronavirus pandemic and made it on to the waiting list for a transplant on July 2, 2021.
"He has a remarkable will to live and I am so proud to be a part of the clinical team that performed his life-saving double lung transplant, just two days after he was placed on the waiting list,” said Dr. Jesus Gomez-Abraham, associate surgical director of lung transplantation for Newark Beth Israel Medical Center/RWJBarnabas Health.
Moyet, who has helped raise seven kids and has three of his own, said he's excited to know that he'll be able to see his youngest child graduate high school. He hopes to take a trip with his family in the next few years to Europe.
He describes his current health as "very good."
"My goal is to breathe 95 to 100%," he said. "My goal is, hopefully in six months, to start running."
Moyet said he would typically shy away from talking about 9/11, his service, and the lasting images in his head, but he wants to share his story now so that others who served at Ground Zero know of the potential health dangers lurking.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.