Luis Alvarez: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Luis Alvarez

(Getty) Luis Alvarez testified in front of Congress on June 11

Luis Alvarez, the former NYPD officer whose moving testimony to Congress captured the public’s sympathy when he described the impact of 9/11 on his health, has passed away at the age of 53.

Alvarez recently told members of Congress that he’d gone through 69 rounds of chemotherapy after he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer as a result of working at Ground Zero after 9/11.

“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,” Alvarez told lawmakers. “Now the 9/11 illnesses have taken many of us, and we are all worried about our children, our spouses and our families and what happens if we are not here.” Alvarez appeared at the hearing beside former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, who choked up when he slammed lawmakers for failing to do more to provide health benefits for first responders. You can watch Stewart’s emotional testimony here. You can watch Alvarez’s testimony here.

On June 19, Luis Alvarez announced that he was entering hospice care because, he said, he was undergoing liver failure there was nothing more that doctors could do to fight against his cancer. He wrote on Facebook,

“I’m now in hospice, because their is nothing else the doctors can do to fight the cancer. It had nothing to do with my trip to DC, that was just coincidence. The day after my trip I 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. I will try to do a few more interviews to keep a light on our fight for the VCF benefits we all justly deserve. Please take care of yourselves and each other.- God Bless-Lou.”

Here’s what you need to know about Luis Alvarez:

1. He Said He Was Worried About Leaving His Children without a Father

Luis Alvarez

(Getty)Luis Alvarez during the June 11, 2019 Congressional hearing

Alvarez has three sons. His eldest, David, is 29 years old. His son Tyler is 19, and his youngest, Ben, is 14. In an interview with Fox’s Shepard Smith, Alvarez talked about how troubled he feels to leave his children without a father. But he also stressed that his situation is not unique and that there are “plenty of guys” in the same plight as he is.

“It’s not fair — I’ve been blessed,” Alvarez said. “I got sick 16 years after the fact. 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,” he said. “And there’s plenty like me. Like I said, I’m not special. There’s plenty of guys like me. Okay? I got sick 16 years after the fact. And there’s workers out there who say, ‘this isn’t going to happen to me. I’m okay. The time has passed.’ The time doesn’t — is not going to pass.”

Alvarez also said that he didn’t want to be seen as a hero. He said he had “no regrets” about what had happened and that there was nothing “special” about his actions.

“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.”

2. He Was a Marine & a Cop Who Worked for the Narcotics Division & the Bomb Squad

Luis Alvarez

Luis Alvarez with John Stewart

The Today Show notes that Alvarez is a former US Marine who went on to work as a narcotics cop in Queens, New York. After 911, Alvarez spent weeks working at Ground Zero, first searching for survivors of the attack, and then serving on the so-called “bucket brigade” to try and locate remains of NYPD and FDNY officers who died in the attack. Alvarez spent most of his career working in narcotics but was transferred to the bomb squad towards the end of his time with the NYPD. He retired from the NYPD in 2010 after a 20 year career on the police force.

Alvarez has traveled to Washington DC more than once to testify about the need to fund healthcare for 911 first responders. He says he doesn’t enjoy testifying — it takes a toll on his health and it upsets his wife. But, as the Daily News reports, Alvarez believes in the importance of what he’s doing. He says he’s testifying in part because he wants his own kids to know that he did everything in his power to help his fellow first responders. “I want my kids to know that dad did everything he could to help other police officers get through this,” Alvarez said.

At least 3,700 first responders have been diagnosed with various forms of cancer that can be traced back to exposure to carcinogens after the collapse of the World Trade Center.

3. He Went to Work for Homeland Security After Retiring from the NYPD

Luis Alvarez

Luis Alvarez testifying to Congress on June 11, 2019

Luis Alvarez had a long career with the NYPD. He spent most of his 20 year career working for the narcotics division, according to the Daily News. But towards the end of his career, he was transferred to the bomb squad. After 911, Alvarez rushed to Ground Zero and spent weeks working to locate survivors and the remains of victims of the attacks.

Alvarez retired from the NYPD in 2010. He found a new job working for the Department of Homeland Security. But, the Daily News reports, his new career was cut short when health issues began to present themselves. Finally in 2016 — on Father’s Day — Alvarez was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Thousands of other first responders have been diagnosed with cancer after being exposed to carcinogens after the collapse of the World Trade Center.

On June 19, Alvarez announced on Facebook that his liver had given out and that he was entering hospice care after doctors said there was nothing more they could do to fight his cancer.

4. He Was a New Yorker Who Went to Catholic School in Queens & Attended City College

Luis Alvarez grew up in New York City. According to his Facebook page, he graduated from Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in the East Elmhurst section of Queens, New York. The school opened in 1956 and was named in honor of the memory of Msgr. McClancy, former Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn.

Alvarez went on to study at the City of College of New York. He served in the US Marines and then joined the NYPD, where he sepnt most of his 20-year career working in the narcotics division. Towards the end of his career, Alvarez was transferred to the bomb squad. Following 9/11. Alvarez was one of the first responders who rushed to Ground Zero to help; he spent weeks working on the pile, trying to rescue survivors and locate victims’ remains. Years later, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. He is now in hospice care after his liver failed and doctors said they could do nothing more to fight his cancer.

Alvarez testified in front of Congress about his situation, and the plight of other first reponders, on June 11. You can watch Alvarez’s testimony here.

5. His Wife & His Son Ran a 5K Together to Raise Funds for Fighting Cancer

Luis Alvarez was diagnosed with stage four cancer on Father’s Day, back in 2016. In 2017 his eldest son, David, decided to take part on the Runyon 5K Run for Cancer Awareness at Yankee Stadium. David’s stepmother and two of his cousins also took part in the race, according to the Daily News. The race raised funds for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

David said that he had decided to run the race in order to put a “spotlight” on the needs of 9/11 first responders who were diagnosed with cancer after working at Ground Zero. But he also said he had chosen to run the race as a way to honor his father. He told the Daily News that he had struggled to find a way to help his father and that the race was one way of showing his solidarity.

“(My father’s) always been a strong, proud man, to admit to this disease was really difficult for him,” Alvarez told the Daily News. “It was really difficult to digest. For the past year he’s been fighting it. In all that time I felt like there was very little I can do, besides just listening to him and giving him space when he needed it.”