9/11 First Responder Luis Alvarez, 53, Dies of Cancer Weeks After Testifying with Jon Stewart

Luis Alvarez, a former U.S. Marine and bomb-squad detective for the New York Police Department, was diagnosed with a 9/11-linked cancer in 2016

Luis Alvarez
Luis Alvarez. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty

Luis Alvarez, who was diagnosed with a 9/11-linked cancer and became an outspoken advocate for the thousands of other first responders coping with illnesses related to the attacks, has died just weeks after he testified before lawmakers with comedian Jon Stewart. He was 53.

Alvarez’s family announced his death in a Facebook post on Saturday. “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,” they wrote.

“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,” his family continued. “He was at peace with that, surrounded by family.”

The New York Police Department’s chief of detectives also paid tribute to Alvarez on Saturday morning, tweeting, “An inspiration, a warrior, a friend —we will carry his sword.”

Shortly after he appeared before Congress with Stewart to push for reauthorizing funding for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, Alvarez — a former U.S. Marine and bomb-squad detective for the NYPD who was a first responder on that fateful day in 2001 — was placed in hospice care when doctors discovered his liver had completely shut down, he revealed in a heartbreaking Facebook post on June 19.

“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,” Alvarez wrote, before adding, “Still here, still breathing, Still fighting.”

For three years, the 53-year-old had battled colorectal cancer, undergoing 69 rounds of chemotherapy and multiple operations to remove portions of his colon, gallbladder and liver, the New York Daily News previously reported.

Just days before his death, Alvarez gave a final interview from his hospice bed, where he recalled the day of the attacks and expressed frustration for himself and other first responders who have been diagnosed with a collection of cancers tied to exposure to the carcinogens — such as jet fuel, mercury and 400 tons of asbestos — that were released into New York City’s air during the collapse of the towers.

“9/11 happened, we got called down. It’s my job as an NYPD detective to respond to emergencies,” he told Fox News. “So no hesitation. I’m no one special and I did what all the other guys did. Now we are paying the price for it.”

Jon Stewart
Luis Alvarez and Jon Stewart. Zach Gibson/Getty

Like he had so many times before, Alvarez emphasized the importance of having health care.

“You need to be covered,” he told Fox News. “I’m lucky to have the health care that I’ve got, but there are guys out there who don’t have it. In terms of going through the stress of fighting cancer, they’re also fighting the financial stress of the health care. It’s not right. We served our city, our state, our country, and we should be compensated for it. Not compensated in the sense that we want to be rich. We just want the money to be there for our families.”

Just 24 hours after Alvarez and Stewart appeared before Congress, the Judiciary Committee unanimously agreed to send the bill to the House floor for a vote, surpassing one major obstacle in the process of reauthorizing the funds.

Of making trips to talk to lawmakers despite his frail condition, Alvarez told the Daily News, “I want my kids to know that dad did everything he could to help other police officers get through this.”

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