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Luis Alvarez, 9/11 responder who pushed for healthcare, has died at 53




Luis Alvarez, a former New York City detective who emerged as an activist after he appeared before Congress to push for extended health benefits to authorities who responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, died Saturday at the age of 53.

Alvarez’s family announced in a post on Facebook that Alvarez had died in hospice care after a three-year battle with cancer.

“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 post read. “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 first joined the NYPD in 1990 and was assigned to work in his native Queens before being transferred to the department’s Narcotics Division and promoted to detective two years later, according to the New York Times.

The former detective was diagnosed in 2016, nearly 15 years after he spent three months in the toxic wreckage of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan searching for survivors and remains after the terrorist attack.

On June 11, the former detective appeared before a House Judiciary subcommittee in Washington, DC to argue for the replenishment of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund

“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,” Alvarez said in his testimony. “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.”

Retired New York Police Department detective and 9/11 responder Luis Alvarez testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on reauthorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund on Capitol Hill on June 11, 2019 in Washington, DC.
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Read more: Jon Stewart and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez excoriate Congress for refusing to fund healthcare for 9/11 first responders

NYPD Commissioner James P. O’Neill tweeted that the NYPD would “#NeverForget” Alvarez’s “physical, mental & emotional” strength and commitment to “do what’s right.”

At the same hearing, comedian and former host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” Jon Stewart called out the committee’s poor attendance as “ an embarrassment to the country and a stain on this institution” and said Congress should be “ashamed” for its lack of accountability.

“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,” Stewart said, seated next to 9/11 responders. “And you should be ashamed of yourselves for those that aren’t here, but you won’t be. Because accountability doesn’t appear to be something that occurs in this chamber.”

House Republicans voted down a Democratic bill in 2010 that would have allotted billions of dollars on providing treatment to those with 9/11 related illnesses. The GOP members cited the costliness of the program and said it didn’t include sufficient measures to protect against waste and abuse.

The compensation fund was renewed for just five years in 2015. Thousands of 9/11 first responders have health issues, including dozens of different forms of cancer, linked to the toxic chemicals they were exposed to at Ground Zero.

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