Rockville Centre, NY – New York Police Department (NYPD) Bomb Squad Detective Luis “Lou” Alvarez died in the line of duty on Saturday morning, when he succumbed to cancer that developed following his service at the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on Sep. 11, 2001.
The 53-year-old retired detective was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2016, according to The New York Times.
Doctors determined that the cancer was caused by the toxic rubble Det. Alvarez was exposed to during the three months he spent working at the site of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks.
He passed away in hospice care while surrounded by his family, according to a statement released by his loved ones.
On June 11, Det. Alvarez testified before the House Judiciary subcommittee alongside comedian and activist Jon Stewart to plead for refunding of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, The New York Times reported.
The $7.3 billion fund, which was established in 2011 to help aid 9/11 first responders and their families, is expected to be depleted by the end of 2020.
By then, more people will have died from 9/11-related illnesses than during the terrorist attacks themselves, Senator Chuck Schumer said earlier in June.
“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,” the veteran detective told the House committee. “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,” he continued. “We are all worried about our children, our spouses and our families and what happens if we are not here.”
But instead of receiving chemotherapy treatment the day after his passionate plea, Det. Alvarez learned that his liver “had completely shut down,” he explained in a Facebook post.
“I’m now in hospice, because [there] is nothing else the doctors can do to fight the cancer,” Det. Alvarez wrote. “I’m resting and I’m at peace. I will continue to fight until the Good Lord decides it’s time.”
He reiterated the need to keep fighting for 9/11 first responders and their families.
“Please take care of yourselves and each other,” Det. Alvarez told his followers.
On June 26, just three days before Det. Alvarez’s death, demolition supervisor John Feal and other emergency workers met with Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, The New York Times reported.
During the meeting, Feal shook McConnell’s hand, and left him with Det. Alvarez’s NYPD badge.
“That badge is sacred and Louie’s legacy is stamped to that badge,” Feal told the New York Post. “Mitch McConnell now has a moral responsibility to honor Louie’s memory.”
"That wasn't my intention [to give McConnell the badge]. That was Luis' intention,” Feal said, according to WPIX. “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."
The House Judiciary Committee has endorsed a bill that will extend the 9/11 benefit fund for decades, The New York Times reported.
The full House will vote on the measure in July.
Det. Alvarez immigrated to New York from Cuba as a child, and joined the U.S. Marine Corps right out of high school, the New York Post reported.
He was hired by the NYPD in 1990, and was assigned to the 108th Precinct, the Narcotics Division, and the Bomb Squad during his two decades of service, according to The New York Times.
After retiring from the NYPD in 2010, Det. Alvarez spent seven years working at a Transportation Security Administration explosives expert, the New York Post reported.
“He made me want to be a better person,” Feal told the news outlet. “I let him into my world, and I’m humbled that he let me be part of his life.”
Representative Pete King said that he was scheduled to meet with Det. Alvarez on Sunday.
“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,” King said. “He was an incredible guy. Right to the end, I never saw a guy with more guts or class.”
Det. Alvarez leaves behind his wife, Alaine, as well as his sons, David, Tyler and Benjamin, according to The New York Times.
He is also survived by his parents, sister, and brothers.
“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,” the NYPD said in a Facebook post on Saturday.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of New York Police Department Bomb Squad Detective Luis “Lou” Alvarez, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.
Rest easy, hero. We’ll hold the line from here.