Luis Alvarez, September 11 first responder and campaigner, dies at 53

Ex-New York City police detective had colorectal cancer he said was due to months spent in the rubble of the World Trade Center

Luis Alvarez, a former New York City police detective who was a leader in the fight for proper support of the September 11th victim compensation fund has died. He was 53.

Earlier this month, Alvarez appeared in Washington with former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, to plead with Congress to extend the compensation fund for victims of the terrorist attacks and first responders. He entered hospice care days later.

We went to Ground Zero, the Pentagon and Shanksville to help people first and then help their families bury someone or something, a gaunt Alvarez told the House judiciary committee in a hearing which generated national attention.

You made me come down here the day before my 69th round of chemo and Im going to make sure that you never forget to take care of the 9/11 responders.

Alvarez was found to have colorectal cancer in 2016. He blamed his illness on three months spent in the rubble of the World Trade Center after the attacks in 2001.

Luis Alvarez in his days with the NYPD. Photograph: AP

Eighteen years later, from his hospice bed, he kept giving media interviews, demanding Congress pass legislation to provide ongoing medical compensation for victims and first responders.

We were told the air was safe done there, and it wasnt, he told Fox News from his hospice bed, with one of his sons beside him. Im nobody special. I did what all the other guys did. And now were paying the price for it.

Alvarez said he got sick 16 years after his exposure to the dust and rubble at the Ground Zero site, and added: Theres going to be more and more and more responders getting sick. And I want them to know that. Just because youre not sick now, doesnt mean you arent going to get sick. And you need to be covered.

Earlier this year, after US officials said the 9/11 victims fund was running out of money, the federal government slashed by more than half payments to those sick or dying from toxins released during the attacks.

Those who developed health issues or did not discover illnesses for some time saw even larger reductions in payouts for health benefits. More than 20,000 people have suffered or died from cancer, breathing problems and other ailments because of trauma inflicted on 9/11.

We did our job, Alvarez told Fox News. Congress has to do theirs.

Nikki Schwab (@NikkiSchwab)

UPDATE: 9/11 first responder Luis Alvarez does an interview with @FoxNews as his liver is failing after breathing in toxic dust after the Twin Towers fell

June 20, 2019

His death was announced on Saturday by New Yorks chief of detectives. Dermot Shea tweeted that Alvarez was an inspiration, a warrior, a friend.

New York police commissioner James ONeill tweeted: We vow to never forget him or his legacy which was, simply, to have others do whats right.

The former police detectives stubborn advocacy, even in the last stages of his illness, and his constant focus on the others who might soon have to deal with illness and financial anxiety, drew praise and support from across the partisan divide.

Among early tributes to Alvarez was one from the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who called him selfless.

We must build a society, the Vermont senator wrote, where we take care of each other and treat heathcare as a human right.

Alvarezs family said in a Facebook post he had touched many lives and asked: Please remember his words, Please take care of yourselves and each other.

  • Additional reporting by Sabrina Siddiqui

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