Today, is 7/4/2019, Independence Day, and on the day of celebrating our freedoms, we pause to remember one who gave his all. On the night before his death, Luis Alvarez (53) lay awake speaking of walking to find the first responders of 9/11 once again. Even in death, he was trying to help American citizens.
Alvarez was among thousands of first responders who spent months digging through the rubble for survivors, then bodies. He died Saturday after a years-long battle with cancer he blamed on three months toiling at Ground Zero.
In his last days [only 3 weeks ago] very sick and speaking from his pleading heart, he appeared before a Congressional Committee with Jon Stewart to implore Congress to reauthorize the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund.
“You all said you would never forget. Well, I’m here to make sure that you don’t,” Alvarez testified at a House Judiciary Committee hearing. “I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer from 9/11, like me, are valued less than anyone else.”
The committee unanimously approved the bill, which awaits votes in the House and Senate. The next day Alvarez faced his 69th round of chemotherapy. A week later he was in hospice care.
Police Commissioner James O’Neill eulogized Alvarez as a dedicated officer who fought to ensure that the needs of first responders won’t be ignored. He noted that 23 police officers died the day of the attack – and 222 have died since.
“No person who responded to 9/11 or who worked to the point of exhaustion during the lengthy rescue and recovery period that followed should ever need to beg our elected officials to act,” O’Neill said. “I will tell you this – We can thank God it was Luis Alvarez who stepped forward to make that demand on behalf of every citizen and resident of our country.”
“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,” his family said in a statement announcing his death. “He was at peace with that, surrounded by family.”
Hundreds attended the funeral for retired NYPD Det. Luis Alvarez on Wednesday at Immaculate Conception Church in Astoria. A sea of blue officers lined the streets and residents with American flags lined Lincoln Avenue as his body left the funeral home in Oceanside.
He attributed his illness to the three months he spent digging through rubble after the World Trade Center’s twin towers collapsed in the 2001 terrorist attack.
“Luis asked me and the family that we remember at this mass everyone who died on 9/11,” Rev. John P. Harrington said at the service.
“Before he became a hero across this country, he was always mine,” said Luis’ son, David Alvarez. “He was always the man that I looked up to, who inspired me.”
Happy 4th of July! While we celebrate, we will never forget.
Ref. usatoday.com, newsday.com, NBC/Today, cbsnews.com
Photo courtesy of Bing via reddit.com