CNN

9/11 first responder and advocate Luis Alvarez dies at 53

Jun 29, 2019, 9:39 AM | Updated: 9:40 am
Luis Alvarez testifying before Congress this month. (CNN)...
Luis Alvarez testifying before Congress this month. (CNN)
(CNN)

NEW YORK — Luis Alvarez, a retired NYPD bomb squad detective who described for Congress his 9/11-related medical issues during an impassioned appeal for an extension of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, died Saturday in a hospice in New York. He was 53.

His death from complications of cancer linked to the time he spent with other first responders in the rubble at ground zero was announced in a Facebook statement from his family.

“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,” the statement said.

“He was at peace with that, surrounded by family. Thank you for giving us this time we have had with him, it was a blessing.”

Alvarez entered end-of-life hospice care last week.

On June 11, a frail Alvarez made his way to Washington with other first responders to testify in a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing for an extension of the fund for police officers, firefighters and other emergency workers who became ill after laboring at the site of the 2001 World Trade Center terrorist attacks. He received a standing ovation that day.

“I’m now in hospice, because (there) is nothing else the doctors can do to fight the cancer,” Alvarez wrote in a Facebook post the following week.

“I’m resting and I’m at peace,” he added. “I will continue to fight until the Good Lord decides it’s time… Please take care of yourselves and each other.”

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill tweeted a photo of Alvarez on Saturday with the message: “Our NYPD family & all 1st responders mourn as we remember retired NYPD Bomb Squad Det. Luis Alvarez, who passed this morning.

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.”

Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said of Alvarez: “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.”

Alvarez wrote last week that the decline in his health had nothing to do with the trip to Washington.
Some lawmakers on the panel did not show up for the hearing this month, leading to a fiery speech from comedian and fund proponent Jon Stewart.”As I sit here today, I can’t help but think what an incredible metaphor this room is for the entire process that getting health care and benefits for 9/11 first responders has come to,” Stewart said.

Alvarez, speaking slowly, told lawmakers in the room that he planned to get his 69th round of chemotherapy the next day.

“You made me come down here the day before my 69th round of chemo, and I’m going to make sure that you never forget to take care of the 9/11 responders,” he said.

“We were there with one mission, and we left after completing that mission,” he said. “I have been to many places in this world and done many things, but I can tell you that I did not want to be anywhere else but Ground Zero when I was there.”

He added, “Now that the 9/11 illnesses have taken many of us, we are all worried about our children and spouses and our families if we are not here.”

But Alvarez later posted on Facebook that a nurse noticed he was disoriented when he went for chemo treatment. Tests then revealed that his liver had completely shut down because of his tumors, he said.
“So now I’m resting and I’m at peace. I will continue to fight until the Good Lord decides it’s time,” he wrote. “I will try to do a few more interviews to keep a light on our fight for the VCF benefits we all justly deserve. Please take care of yourselves and each other.”

The fund was created in the months following the 2001 attacks and was initially active for two years, paying more than $7 billion relating to injuries and deaths caused by the 9/11 attacks.

But first responders who spent weeks at the site breathing in noxious air clouded with debris from the collapsed buildings — after New York and federal officials told them it was safe — have since been diagnosed with a variety of debilitating illnesses and cancers.

Congress and President Barack Obama agreed in 2010 to pay their medical costs, reopened the fund and set aside $2.7 billion to pay victims just learning about chronic health problems resulting from their work in 2001. In 2012, the government determined that cancers can be compensated as part of the fund.

It wasn’t nearly enough money, however, and in 2015 Congress added $4.6 billion in funding, along with new controls and limits on some payments. The special master who administers the fund anticipates that total payouts for claims filed before the measure expires in 2020 could be far higher: $11.6 billion, if a current uptick in claims — largely caused by an increase in serious illnesses and deaths — continues.

The current proposal to permanently extend the fund would authorize it through 2089. It has plenty of support in the House, where it passed the Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Mitch McConnell indicated that Congress would address the fund.

As of May, more than 12,500 cases of cancer had also been diagnosed, according to The World Trade Center Health Program, a separate health care program related to the victim fund run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The most diagnosed ailments are upper and lower respiratory issues like asthma, gastrointestinal problems like reflux, musculoskeletal disorders and mental health conditions.

Today’s Top Stories

CNN

A US Soccer spokesperson told CNN in an email that Pulisic, who collided with the Iranian goalkeepe...
Kevin Dotson and Matias Grez, CNN

Christian Pulisic is day-to-day after being taken to hospital with pelvic contusion suffered scoring winning goal for US

A US Soccer spokesperson told CNN in an email that Pulisic, who collided with the Iranian goalkeeper after scoring his goal, went for medical scans but "was not hospitalized."
21 hours ago
USGS posted two photos on Monday from a Civil Air Patrol flight which shows the Mauna Loa volcano e...
Chandler Holt

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa is erupting for the first time since 1984

The world's largest active volcano, Mauna Loa on Hawaii, is erupting for the first time in nearly 40 years. Though lava is flowing down one side of the volcano, the eruption in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is not threatening communities.
2 days ago
Flowers and stuffed animals are lined up outside a sign along Pullman Road in Moscow, Idaho, to pay...
Elizabeth Wolfe and Eric Levenson

University of Idaho students return from break, no arrests in homicides

After more than two weeks since four students were fatally stabbed, students at the University of Idaho returned to class on Monday.
2 days ago
Former Vice President Mike Pence is seen here with audience members after appearing at at CNN town ...
Veronica Stracqualursi, CNN

Pence says Trump was ‘wrong’ for dinner with Holocaust denier

Former Vice President Mike Pence says former President Donald Trump was wrong for having dinner with a Holocaust denier and should apologize for it.
2 days ago
In this image provided by NASA, the Earth and its moon are seen from NASA's Orion spacecraft on Mon...
Jackie Wattles, CNN

NASA’s Orion reaches record-breaking distance from Earth

NASA confirmed that Orion had reached the midpoint of its uncrewed mission around the moon — about 270,000 miles (434,523 kilometers) from Earth.
2 days ago
People wait in line to enter Macy's department store during Black Friday in New York City on Novemb...
Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business

Online Black Friday sales set a new record

Online shopping is expected to remain strong through Cyber Monday.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...
Sorenson

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
9/11 first responder and advocate Luis Alvarez dies at 53