9/11 first responder who testified to Congress this month dies at 53

Comedian Jon Stewart assists NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez as they are seated a House hearing on June 11 to extend funding of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI

June 29 (UPI) — Luis Alvarez, who described to Congress earlier this month his medical issues as a first responder after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2011, died Saturday in a hospice in New York. He was 53.

The retired New York Police Department Detective had pleaded for an extension of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund to the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties on June 11.

Comedian Jon Stewart joined Alvarez and other first responders on Capitol Hill, vehemently complaining how long it has taken for Congress to pass the legislation, which lawmakers introduced in February after it became clear the fund was running out of money.

The next day the House committee approved the Never Forget the Heroes Act but it awaits final House approval and action in the Senate.

His death, which came from complications of colorectal cancer linked to the time spent in the rubble at Ground Zero at the World Trade Center in New York, was announced in a Facebook statement from his family.

“It is with peace and comfort, that the Alvarez family announce that Luis (Lou) Alvarez, our warrior, has gone home to our Good Lord in heaven today,” according to the statement posted by Matt McCauley, who also worked at NYPD.

“Please remember his words, ‘Please take care of yourselves and each other.’ 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. 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!”

Last week, he entered hospice care, writing on Facebook there “is nothing else the doctors can do to fight the cancer.

He was scheduled for chemo, “but the nurse noticed I was disoriented. 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.”

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At the hearing, he told House members he was due to begin his latest round of chemotherapy the next day.

“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,” he said. “We were there with one mission, and we left after completing that mission. I have been to many places in this world and done many things, but I can tell you that I did not want to be anywhere else but Ground Zero when I was there.”

He added, “Now that the 9/11 illnesses have taken many of us, we are all worried about our children and spouses and our families if we are not here.”

Alvarez described the importance of the fund.

“This fund isn’t a ticket to paradise, it’s to provide our families with care,” he said. “You all said you would never forget. Well, I’m here to make sure that you don’t.”

The fund was created after the attacks and paid more than $7 billion relating to injuries and deaths for two years.

First responders have since been diagnosed with a variety of debilitating illnesses and cancers.

Initially New York and federal officials told them it was safe to be breathing breathing in noxious air clouded with debris from the collapsed buildings and two jets that when into them.

In 2010, the fund was reopened with $2.7 billion to pay victims just learning about chronic health problems. In 2012, cancers can be compensated as part of the fund.

In 2015, Congress added $4.6 billion in funding, along with new controls and limits on some payments. It expires in 2020 and a special master who administers the fund anticipates that total payouts for claims filed before the measure expires in 2020 could be far higher at $11.6 billion.

The new proposal would expand funding through 2028.

To date, some 40,000 people have applied to the fund, with 20,000 claims pending.

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