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9/11 hero Luis Alvarez honored posthumously on eve of attacks' 18th anniversary

Phil Alvarez, brother of Det. Luis Alvarez, who died in June of cancer tied to his work at Ground Zero, and whose congressional testimony is credited with helping secure health care for thousands of fellow Ground Zero responders, spoke at a ceremony at Brooklyn Borough Hall Tuesday honoring his brother's legacy.  Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes

Luis Alvarez, the cancer-stricken detective whose congressional testimony is credited with helping secure health care benefits 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.

His son David, 28, helped light a memorial candle at the Brooklyn Borough Hall ceremony. The family also accepted a proclamation and received an 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.

Separately, in Alvarez's Long Island hometown of Oceanside, a park will be renamed in his honor, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announced Tuesday. 

“This is the first year of 9/11 that we don’t have him with us,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said of Alvarez, 53, a father of three who died June 29 of colorectal and liver cancer tied to his work at Ground Zero.

In June, Alvarez 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 emotional pleas to extend the health care funding for first responders. 

Alvarez joined the Marines at 18, started at the NYPD in 1990 and was later assigned to the bomb squad. He retired in 2010.

Alvarez's brother 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.

"You gotta be there for each other," he recalled his brother saying. "You gotta stand tall for one another." 

On Facebook, he would send out details of his chemotherapy: "You know 'Chemo number 5, Chemo number 15, Chemo number 40,'" Phil Alvarez said.  

Phil Alvarez drove with his brother to Washington and sat behind Stewart and him during the testimony. Luis Alvarez had a pump delivering chemotherapy to the liver and could not fly. 

In Oceanside, Curran said, Terrell Avenue Park is to be renamed Detective Luis G. Alvarez Memorial Park.

"This park will serve as a symbol and reminder of his sacrifice and unwavering fight for 9/11 first responders," she said in a statement issued by her office. "We look forward to working with his family to create a tranquil neighborhood space and memorial dedicated in his honor."

Alvarez, Stewart and others noted that the $7 billion fund was being drained and benefits being slashed by up to 70 percent. For years, some Republicans had said they were reluctant to sign such legislation without finding a way to pay for it.

This summer, 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.

Alvarez went into hospice soon after testifying before Congress.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking later in the day on the Fox Business Network, lamented that 18 years after the attacks, "We keep losing first responders."

"We've lost first responders, it seems like, every week — there's another person who was there trying to help people, save people, trying to find the bodies of those we lost on that day of tragedy," the mayor said.

Below Borough Hall’s triangular pediment, a blue banner hung over the building’s columns listing the 266 Brooklynites who died the terrorist attacks.

"We will never forget them," Deputy Borough President Ingrid Lewis-Martin said. "Never."

9/11 memorial services on Long Island

Lido Beach: 7:30 a.m. Wednesday at the 9/11 Memorial at Town Park at Point Lookout, 1300 Lido Blvd.

Town of Islip: 5 p.m. Wednesday at Veterans Memorial Park at Islip Town Hall, 655 Main St.

Commack: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Heroes Memorial Track at Commack High School, 1 Scholar Lane.

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