Luis Alvarez, the cancer-stricken detective whose congressional testimony is credited with helping secure health care for thousands of fellow Ground Zero responders, was honored at a Brooklyn ceremony Tuesday marking the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Alvarez’s brother Phil and his son David lit a memorial candle at the Brooklyn Borough Hall ceremony after accepting a proclamation and receiving a standing ovation for Alvarez’s NYPD service and his legacy in the fight for health benefits for responders sickened by toxins at the Ground Zero site.
“This is the first year of 9/11 that we don’t have him with us,” Borough President Eric Adams said of the 53-year-old, a father of three from Oceanside, who died June 29 of colorectal and liver cancer tied to his work at Ground Zero.
In June, Alvarez was cast into the national spotlight when he gave gripping testimony during a televised appearance in Washington D.C., about the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund amid congressional resistance to extend it. Alvarez testified beside activist/comedian Jon Stewart, with both making an emotional plea to extend the health care funding for first responders.
Phil Alvarez, speaking at Tuesday's ceremony, recalled getting the call three years ago that his brother was sick.
“He said, ‘Bro, I got stage four cancer.’ You’re not supposed to get that call about your little brother,” Phil Alvarez said, adding: “It took 15 years for this thing to catch up with him.”
Phil Alvarez described how his brother then went about reaching out to fellow 9/11 responders to urge them to get checked out — a mission he continued on social media in the years to come.
"You gotta be there for each other," he recalled his brother saying. "You gotta stand tall for one another."
Phil Alvarez drove with his brother to Washington and sat behind his brother and Stewart during the testimony.
Alvarez started at the NYPD in 1990 and was later assigned to the bomb squad. He retired in 2010.
Alvarez went into hospice soon after testifying before Congress.
In July, President Donald Trump signed into law a bill to replenish the victim compensation fund to provide financial support for people who were hurt or who developed diseases after responding to the terror attacks. It will last until 2090.