NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez, 53, died on Saturday, a fighter to the end. Just a few days before, he testified before Congress, bringing an impassioned plea for them to replenish the 9-11 Victims’ Fund. He testified with celebrity Jon Stewart at his side. Detective Alvarez was part of the NYPD Bomb Squad, and one of the first to begin climbing through the rubble of the Twin Towers on that fateful day in search of survivors. He was there for three months. That act of heroism ultimately cost him his life. He will be laid to rest on Wednesday.
The first responders who searched through the rubble after the planes slammed into the World Trade Center in 2001, have gone through a dark experience: facing death from a myriad of different cancers from exposure to unknown toxins left from the building collapse. Many have died. Many are in the process of dying. Luis Alvarez, in spite of the cancer that riddled his body, fought long and hard for others who are also in the throes of death.
“If anything good comes from a horrible, tragic death like this, if Lou becomes the face of 9/11 victims, that will hopefully move the bill. He was an incredible guy. Right to the end, I never saw a guy with more guts or class.” Rep Pete King, R-NYBlue Lives Matter
Detective Alvarez emigrated to the US from Cuba, and joined the Marine Corps right out of high school. He joined the NYPD in 1990 and served there for 20 years in both the Narcotics Division and Bomb Squad. After leaving the department in 2010, he joined the Transit Authority as an explosives expert.
“I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer from 9/11 like me are valued less than anyone else because of when they get sick. You made me come here the day before my 69th round of chemo. I’m going to make sure that you never forget to take care of the 9/11 responders. The 9/11 illnesses have taken many of us. We are all worried about our children, our spouses and our families and what happens if we are not here.” Luis Alvarez to House committee
Unfortunately, Luis never received his 69th round of chemo. He got word that his liver had ceased to function and doctors were out of options. He slipped into hospice care, and died a few short days later.
In one last act of inner strength, three days before he died, Luis ordered his friend John Feal, a demolition supervisor, to give his badge to Senator Mitch McConnell. Giving up your badge to a stranger is totally out of character for any law enforcement officer. But Alvarez wanted him to have it as a message:
“That badge is sacred and Louie’s legacy is stamped to that badge. Mitch McConnell now has a moral responsibility to honor Louie’s memory… Luis wanted Mitch McConnell to have his badge…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.” John FealNew York Post and WPIX
The bill is expected to pass both the House and the Senate, with the vote coming in July.
With Alvarez’ last breath he thought of others. Semper Fi, Mr. Alvarez. Rest in Peace.
9 days before 9/11 first responder Luis Alvarez died, Shep Smith asked this American hero how he’d like to be remembered.— Austin Kellerman (@AustinKellerman) June 29, 2019
He didn’t talk about himself.
He talked about everyone else struggling with sickness.
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He exemplified the NYPD motto, “Fidelis Ad Mortem” or “Faithful Unto Death.” Detective Lou Alvarez has lost his battle with 9/11-related cancer. An inspiration, a warrior, a friend—we will carry his sword. https://t.co/utRphj7owx— Chief Dermot F. Shea (@NYPDDetectives) June 29, 2019
Our hearts are broken after the passing of a real hero, Det. Luis Alvarez of the bomb squad. He gave everything to help rebuild this city after 9/11, and made it his life’s work at the end to #Renew911VCF permanently. He defined courage and honor. May he RIP #FidelisAdMortem pic.twitter.com/lv6QSJipqw— NYC PBA (@NYCPBA) June 29, 2019
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