A 9/11 responder who just last week received a standing ovation when he pleaded with Congress to replenish the September 11th victims fund gave his ‘final interview’ from a hospital bed on Thursday, with a liver failure diagnosis leaving him just days away from death.
Retired NYPD detective Luis Alvarez was set to undertake his 69th round of chemotherapy on Wednesday in a brave effort to battle his advanced-stage colorectal cancer.
However the previous succession of grueling treatments appeared to take its toll on the 53-year-old’s body, with doctors issuing the heartbreaking news that his liver was starting to fail.
But saying he’s made ‘peace’ with the idea of succumbing to his diagnosis, Alvarez used his last-ever public address to once again urge federal lawmakers to reauthorize the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
Retired NYPD detective Luis Alvarez gave his ‘final interview’ on Thursday, with a liver failure diagnosis leaving him just days away from death
Accompanied by comedian John Stewart in Washington DC, the pair confronted lawmakers about the dwindling funds available to fellow victims of the tragedy and pleaded with them to take urgent action in replenishing it
‘I’m doing well. I’m comfortable. I’m not in a lot of pain. I have my family surrounding me and I’m at peace,’ Alvarez told Fox News, adding that he has ‘no regrets’ about helping to search for victims among the wreckage of the Twin Towers, which ultimately led to his deadly prognosis.
‘I have no regrets — no regrets whatsoever,’ he said. ‘9/11 happened. We got called down. It’s my job as an NYPD detective to respond to emergencies. So, no hesitation. We went down, spent about three months down there doing the bucket brigade, doing rooftop detail, trying to find remains.
‘I did what every other FDNY, NYPD, EMS worker – everybody. I’m nobody special. I did what all the other guys did. And now we’re paying the price for it.’
Alvarez 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’.
‘This is my son, David. He was 11 years old on 9/11. He’s 29 years old now. And I’m leaving him without a father,’ an emotional Alvarez said on Thursday
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
Alvarez shared an undated photo of himself before he was diagnosed with cancer in 2016
Alongside the post Alvarez shared an undated image of himself before his 2016 diagnosis, in which he cuts a muscular, heavy-set figure.
The cancer ravaged his body, eating away at his muscles, stripping his skin of its color and deflating his facial features, rendering him virtually unrecognizable from his former self when he appeared in Congress last Tuesday.
Accompanied by comedian John Stewart in Washington DC, the pair confronted lawmakers about the dwindling funds available to fellow victims of the tragedy and pleaded with them to take urgent action in replenishing it.
‘I should not be here with you, but you made me come,’ he bluntly told lawmakers last week.
‘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.’
At the end of his testimony the hushed chamber erupted with applause as many people were seen wiping away tears.
Luis Alvarez got cancer from working at Ground Zero after 9/11 searching among the rubble for survivors
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)
The fund is in serious danger of running completely dry after the Justice Department announced it would be cutting pay-outs by as much as 70 percent, hoping to preserve its reserves for the years ahead.
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.
Alvarez voiced that he thought of himself as lucky and ‘blessed’ because of the fund when speaking to FOX on Thursday, insisting the vital assistance provided by the fund allowed him to find the best quality treatment to keep his prognosis at bay.
But however lucky he may feel for the bought time, Alvarez admitted the thought of leaving his sons behind is still a tough thought to contemplate.
‘It’s not fair – I’ve been blessed. I got sick 16 years after the fact,’ Alvarez began. ‘This is my son, David. He was 11 years old on 9/11. He’s 29 years old now. And I’m leaving him without a father. I also have two other sons, Tyler and Ben, who are 19 and 14. And I’m leaving them without a father.’
Alvarez (pictured left with his wife) was set to complete his staggering 69th round of chemotherapy on Wednesday when he received the heartbreaking news that his liver was failing drastically
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
‘And there’s plenty like me,’ he continued. ‘There’s going to be more and more and more responders getting sick, and I just want them to know that just because you’re not sick now, doesn’t mean you’re not going to get sick. And you need to be covered.
‘I’m lucky to have the health care that I got. But there’s guys out there that don’t have it. There’s plenty of people that, in terms of going through the stress of fighting cancer, they’re also fighting the financial stress of the health care. And it’s not right. You know, we served our city, our state, our country. And [we] should be compensated for it.’
Alvarez added that first responders went above and beyond the call of duty to save the lives of American’s on September 11th and now it’s time for Congress to pay back their selflessness.
He warned that the first responder issue was sure to become an ‘epidemic’ and Congress needed to act promptly with foresight.
‘We did our job, congress has to do theirs. ‘We were told the air was safe down there and it wasn’t. But you know what, that doesn’t matter. Because we would have went in anyway. Because that’s what we do. It’s not a job for us. It’s a calling.
‘There’s going to be more and more first responders getting sick. And our government has to take care of them. It’s just a matter of decency, a matter of doing the right thing. We did the right thing when we went down there. Now it’s the government’s turn to do the right thing by us.’
Alvarez added that he hopes he’s remembered as an advocate for 9/11 responders all around the country, not just New York.