An NYPD detective who received a standing ovation when he testified in support of reauthorizing the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund in Congress last week is now in hospice care.
Luis Alvarez was diagnosed with advanced-stage colorectal cancer in 2016 as a result of his work at Ground Zero, where he searched rooftops looking for victims soon after the twin towers fell in lower Manhattan.
The 53-year-old shared the tragic news of his declining health on Facebook on Wednesday, writing that he is ‘still here and still fighting’, but has stopped treatment because ‘there is nothing else the doctors can do’.
Alvarez was scheduled to undergo his 69th round of chemotherapy last week the day after he appeared in front of a House Judiciary subcommittee alongside former Daily Show host Jon Stewart.
‘I should not be here with you, but you made me come,’ he told lawmakers.
‘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.’
Luis Alvarez, a former NYPD detective who got cancer from working at Ground Zero after 9/11, announced that he’s entered hospice care on Wednesday. The 53-year-old testifying before Congress on the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund last week (above)
Alvarez received a standing ovation when he finished his emotional testimony before a House Judiciary subcommittee. He is seated center surrounded by former Daily Show host Jon Stewart (right) FealGood Foundation co-founder John Feal (center) and retired FDNY Lieutenant and 9/11 responder Michael O’Connelll (left)
In his latest post, Alvarez said the timing of his trip to DC and his entering hospice care was a coincidence.
‘The day after my trip I was scheduled for chemo, but the nurse noticed I was disoriented,’ he wrote.
‘A few tests later they realized that my liver had completely shut down because of the tumors and wasn’t cleaning out the toxins in my body and it was filling up with ammonia, hence the disorientation.
‘So now I’m resting and I’m at peace. I will continue to fight until the Good Lord decides it’s time. I will try to do a few more interviews to keep a light on our fight for the [Victim Compensation Fund] benefits we all justly deserve. Please take care of yourselves and each other.- God Bless-Lou.
‘Still here, still breathing, Still fighting.’
Alvarez shared an undated photo of himself before he was diagnosed with cancer in 2016
Alvarez shared the post with an undated photo of himself before he got sick. He looks like your typical police officer, heavy-set and muscular.
The cancer ravaged his body, eating away at his muscles, stripping his skin of its color and deflating his facial features to the point that the man who appeared before Congress last Tuesday looked nothing like the man in the photo.
Alvarez explained to lawmakers that, as brutal as his treatment regimen has been, he feels blessed that it gave him more time with his family – time many other responders who fell ill after 9/11 didn’t get.
‘I have been lucky enough to have the pain and suffering of 69 rounds of chemo and countless other treatments and surgeries,’ he said.
‘My life isn’t worth more than the next responder to get cancer. My family’s needs are not worth less than any others who have already died.
‘This fund is not a ticket to paradise. It is there to provide for our families when we can’t. Nothing more. You all said you would never forget. Well, I’m here to make sure that you don’t.’
At the end of his testimony the hushed chamber erupted with applause as many people were seen wiping away tears.
Alvarez and Stewart are seen joking around before the hearing on June 11. The former NYPD detective was scheduled to undergo his 69th round of chemotherapy the next day
Stewart steadies Alvarez as they are sworn in before a House Judiciary Committee hearing called ‘The Need to Reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund’
Years of aggressive treatment have caused Alvarez’ appearance to change dramatically. He says as brutal as his treatment regimen has been, he feels blessed that it gave him more time with his family – time many other responders who fell ill after 9/11 didn’t get
The following day, the bill to ensure that the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund doesn’t run dry unanimously passed through the House Judiciary Committee and will head to a full House vote next month.
The fund covers medical costs of first responders, volunteers and survivors suffering from 9/11-related illnesses, including respiratory or digestive-system ailments and even cancers.
The Zadroga Act pledged in 2015 to extend medical coverage until 2090, but a rapidly-dwindling fund meant it was doomed to fall short, prompting Stewart and a host of victims’ families to appeal for greater funding.
Stewart took the mic on Tuesday after Alvarez and decried the fact that only five members out of 14 turned up to hear the victim’s emotional appeal for more support.
Pointing to rows of empty seats at a house subcommittee hearing room, an angry Stewart said that ‘sick and dying’ first responders and their families came to Washington for the hearing, only to face a nearly deserted dais.
Fighting back tears, the 56-year-old said: ‘A filled room of 9/11 first responders and in front of me a nearly empty congress. Sick and dying, they brought themselves down here to speak to no one. Shameful. It’s an embarrassment to the country and it is a stain on this institution.’
Addressing Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Reps Steve Cohen, Mary Gay Scanlon, Jamie Raskin and the top Republican in the subcommittee, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, Stewart said that families want to know ‘why is this so damn hard and takes so damn long?’.
And he pointed out that the official recorded response time of FDNY firefighters on the day of the attacks was just five seconds.
Gesturing to rows of uniformed firefighters and police officers behind him, he said the hearing ‘should be flipped,’ so that first responders were on the dais, with members of Congress ‘down here’ in witness chairs answering their questions.
The damning and at times heartbreaking speech earned Stewart a standing ovation from the first responders around him.
Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders, called out lawmakers on Tuesday for failing to attend a hearing on a bill to ensure the fund can pay benefits for the next 70 years
Legislation had set aside $7.3billion dollars to compensate the victims of the 9/11 attacks and their families, including those killed and first responders.
But $5billion has already been paid out, and families and their advocates say at least another $5billion is needed to cover pending claims.
The ‘Never Forget The Heroes Act’ keeps the current fund going until October 1, 2090. Previous bills only allowed victims of the terror attacks – including the first responders – to file claims in five-year periods.
However, the new bill also doesn’t cap the funds allocated to assist the victims.
‘That five-year reauthorization was not nearly enough. People are still getting sick as diseases like cancer emerge after long latency periods,’ Nadler said at last week’s hearing.
‘Those already sick are getting sicker, and tragically many are dying and have died.’
New York firefighters are seen in the rubble of the World Trade Center after the 9/11 attacks
Thousands of construction workers, police officers, firefighters and others spent time working in the soot, often without proper respiratory protection, leading to health issues later on
The collapse of the World Trade Center in September 2001 sent a cloud of thick dust billowing over Lower Manhattan.
Thousands of construction workers, police officers, firefighters and others spent time working in the soot, often without proper respiratory protection.
In the years since, many have seen their health decline, some with respiratory or digestive-system ailments that appeared almost immediately.
Others have developed illnesses later caused by the toxic dust on the site, including cancer.
More than 40,000 people have applied to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which covers illnesses potentially related to being at the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the attacks.
Stewart and other speakers lamented the fact that nearly 18 years after the attacks, first responders and their families still have no assurance the fund will not run out of money.