Luis Alvarez made his final journey Wednesday, surrounded by those for whom he gave his last full measure of devotion.
The former New York Police Department detective, who labored at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks, had a trip to Congress on June 11 to push for continued funding for the Victim Compensation Fund, which helps the families of police and firefighters whose dangerous work at the toxic site left them with cancer.
Alvarez died Saturday at the age of 53 after fighting colorectal cancer for three years.
“I did not want to be anywhere else but Ground Zero when I was there,” Alvarez said during his testimony last month. He was accompanied by actor and activist Jon Stewart, according to CBS. Stewart, who has fought for the 9/11 victims fund, attended Alvarez’s funeral on Wednesday.
WATCH: Jon Stewart was among the hundreds of mourners to attend the funeral of Lou Alvarez Wednesday. Last month, Alvarez was among the 9/11 first responders who joined Stewart for his testimony before Congress, requesting the extension of the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund. pic.twitter.com/IM3DswWe7Z
— CBS Evening News (@CBSEveningNews) July 3, 2019
“Now the 9/11 illnesses have taken many of us, and we are all worried about our children, our spouses and our families and what happens if we are not here,” Alvarez said last month.
He told CBS he would fight for those who worked at Ground Zero as long as he had breath to do so.
“As long as God gives me the time, I’ll be here, advocating, because guys are dying now,” Alvarez said.
REST IN PEACE: Hundreds lined the streets as a funeral procession arrived for former NYC Detective Luis Alvarez, who died from cancer he attributed to work at Ground Zero; Alvarez fought until his final days for health benefits for 9/11 first responders. https://t.co/pzmM48Dcdp pic.twitter.com/HoVQOnM93c
— World News Tonight (@ABCWorldNews) July 3, 2019
On Wednesday, Alvarez was praised for his efforts on behalf of others.
Alvarez “emphasized with blunt grace that future families stand not only to experience the stress of fighting these terrible illnesses but that their struggles would be compounded by the unconscionable financial burden of trying to fund their healthcare,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said.
As of Wednesday, 222 NYPD officers have died from 9/11-related illnesses, O’Neill said.
The commissioner said that even as Alvarez was in his final weeks of life, he “just wanted to do what’s right and he desperately wanted others — in particular those in positions of great power — to follow suit.”
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
On Wednesday, Alvarez was honored not only as an advocate, but as a father.
“Before he came an American hero, he was mine,” his eldest son, David, said at the service. “The one above all I wanted to make proud.”
“Growing up I’d be told by family members that I was just like my dad. I laugh like him, I smile like him, I walk like him, I’m quiet and stubborn like he was. I always took it as compliments … because I always looked up to my dad, always wanted to be like him,” David said.
For as long as he was here, Lou Alvarez was “still breathing, still fighting.” And for as long as we’re here, we‘ll remember his valiance in the aftermath of September 11th, as well as his fight for all survivors. Never forget his legacy of tenacity & heroism. Fidelis ad Mortem. pic.twitter.com/Xl4heDjrjq
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) July 3, 2019
His sister, Ida Lugo, said that her brother fought cancer with the same zeal he had when fighting for the victims of 9/11.
In fighting an enemy he could not defeat, Alvarez showed “tenacity and resilience that even surprised his oncology team,” Lugo said.
“Nevertheless, chemo became his prison, his jail. Often isolating him from the world, too sick to engage.”
“He wanted to urge our government to do the right thing. It became my brother’s dying wish, the legacy he wanted to leave that the bill protecting the Victim Compensation Fund be passed,” she said.
Although a House panel passed a bill to ensure the fund remains solvent, the bill still needs to pass the full House and the Senate.
“Luis could’ve spent his last days and weeks and hours w his family and loved ones, he chose to spend it making a difference,” said John Feal, founder of the Feal Good Foundation, which asked Alvarez to speak to Congress, according to the New York Post.
Feal said the fight to pass the bill is not over.
“He’s going to be with us when we’re back in D.C. We’re going to wear him on our sleeve,” Feal said.
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