Retired NYPD bomb squad detective Luis Alvarez, a Ground Zero first responder who implored House lawmakers to reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, died today in Rockville Centre, N.Y., at age 53.
“I should not be here with you, but you made me come, you made me come because I will not stand by while friends with cancer from 9/11 are valued any less,” Alvarez testified alongside advocate Jon Stewart at a June 11 hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties.
He was scheduled to receive his 69th round of chemotherapy for colorectal cancer the following day.
“I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to have 68 rounds of chemo, many others haven’t had the opportunity to have five and some have had none,” he told lawmakers.
Alvarez vowed to ensure that Congress never forgets to take care of the 9/11 first responders. He received a standing ovation from the room packed full of first responders at the conclusion of his testimony.
On June 19, Alvarez announced on Facebook that he had entered hospice care.
“Hello everyone, ‘I’m still here and still fighting.’ I just wanted to let you know, what is going on with me. Since you have have been with me on this 3 year ride. I’m now in hospice, because their [sp] is nothing else the doctors can do to fight the cancer. It had nothing to do with my trip to DC, that was just coincidence,” he wrote. “The day after my trip I was scheduled for chemo, but the nurse noticed I was disoriented. A few tests later they realized that my liver had completely shut down because of the tumors and wasn’t cleaning out the toxins in my body and it was filling up with ammonia, hence the disorientation. So now I’m resting and I’m at peace. I will continue to fight until the Good Lord decides it’s time. I will try to do a few more interviews to keep a light on our fight for the VCF benefits we all justly deserve. Please take care of yourselves and each other.- God Bless-Lou. ‘Still here, still breathing, Still fighting.'”
When fellow 9/11 responders met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday to lobby for a vote on replenishing the fund, they gave him Alvarez’s badge.
“That wasn’t my intention. That was Luis’ intention. Luis wanted Mitch McConnell to have his badge,” 9/11 first responder John Feal told CNN. “And let me tell you something, for a New York City police officer to give up his badge, that’s like somebody donating an organ, and Luis wanted the Senate majority leader to understand the importance of this and to be reminded that people are sick and dying.”
Alvarez made a final public plea for the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund from his hospice bed on June 20.
“I have no regrets — no regrets whatsoever,” he told Fox News’ Shepard Smith. “9/11 happened. We got called down. It’s my job as an NYPD detective to respond to emergencies. So, no hesitation. We went down, spent about three months down there doing the bucket brigade, doing rooftop detail, trying to find remains. I did what every other FDNY, NYPD, EMS worker — everybody. I’m nobody special. I did what all the other guys did. And now we’re paying the price for it.”
“I got sick 16 years after the fact. This is my son, David. He was 11 years old on 9/11. He’s 29 years old now. And I’m leaving him without a father. I also have two other sons, Tyler and Ben, who are 19 and 14. And I’m leaving them without a father,” Alvarez said. “And there’s plenty like me. Like I said, I’m not special. There’s plenty of guys like me. OK? I got sick 16 years after the fact. And there’s workers out there who say, ‘this isn’t going to happen to me. I’m okay. The time has passed.’ The time doesn’t — is not going to pass. There’s going to be more and more and more responders getting sick.”
Matthew McCauley, a retired NYPD officer, lawyer and friend of Alvarez, shared on Facebook today an official statement from the family: “It is with peace and comfort, that the Alvarez family announce that Luis (Lou) Alvarez, our warrior, has gone home to our Good Lord in heaven today. Please remember his words, ‘Please take care of yourselves and each other.’ We told him at the end that he had won this battle by the many lives he had touched by sharing his three year battle. He was at peace with that, surrounded by family. Thank you for giving us this time we have had with him, it was a blessing!”
Funeral arrangements are being handled by the NYPD and details will be forthcoming.
“His strength — physical, mental & emotional — led us all, & we vow to #NeverForget him or his legacy — which was, simply, to have others do what’s right,” tweeted Commissioner James P. O’Neill.