9/11 Hero Lou Alvarez Dies Of Cancer At 53

June 29, 2019 - 12:15 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Retired NYPD Detective Lou Alvarez has died of 9/11-related cancer at age 53.

Alvarez became the face of the battle for a renewed 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund when he testified with comedian Jon Stewart at an emotional Congressional hearing earlier this month.

"You all said you would never forget, well I'm here to make sure that you don't," Alvarez told members of the House Judiciary Committee, which unanimously passed the bill the next day.

Alvarez's final trip to Capitol Hill came a day before he was scheduled to undergo his 69th round of chemotherapy. But his treatment was called off after a nurse noticed he was disoriented. Tests later revealed that his liver had completely shut down and there was nothing else doctors could do for him.

Lou Alvarez
Peter Haskell/WCBS 880

Last week from hospice, he told WCBS 880's Peter Haskell his mission was to get the bill passed.

In a final selfless act, Alvarez asked that his NYPD badge be given to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to convince the Kentucky Republican to renew the compensation fund.

More than 40,000 people have applied to the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, and more than $5 billion in benefits have been awarded to date. The fund is set to run out of money by 2020. 

Lou Alvarez, Jon Stewart
Jack Gruber, USAT

The full House is expected to pass the bill next month and after meeting with 9/11 first responders last Tuesday, McConnell agreed to call a Senate vote soon after that. A replenished fund would mean responders and survivors will receive payments for 9/11 related illnesses or death. 

"The fight that he has put up we hope will forever inspire his sons to see that their father pushed through something that they started no matter how difficult it was," Alvarez's brother, Phil, said.

Tributes to Alvarez from the NYPD community and beyond flowed in on Twitter.

"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," NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said.

"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," Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea wrote.

Congressman Peter King expressed his condolences, writing, "Thoughts and prayers with family and friends of 9/11 hero NYPD Det. Luis Alvarez. Lou was a fighter to the end. A great American. I was actually scheduled to visit him in hospice tomorrow. Lou Alvarez personified America’s heart and soul. Luis Alvarez R.I.P."

Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "Alvarez showed us what courage looks like as he fought fearlessly for the lives of his brothers and sisters who answered the call in our city’s darkest hour."

Alvarez worked a bucket brigade in the pit at Ground Zero after the 9/11 attacks.  He was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer two years ago.

Lou Alvarez on the NYPD Bomb Squad

“Please remember his words, ‘Please take care of yourselves and each other.’ 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. He was at peace with that, surrounded by family,” his family said in a statement.

Alvarez leaves behind a wife, three sons, his parents and three siblings.