9/11 Hero’s Final Congressional Testimony

Former NYPD detective and 9/11 first responder Luis Alvarez has died of cancer at 53. This is his final testimony before Congress in his fight for the Victim Compensation Fund.

Luis Alvarez's Congressional Testimony

Luis Alvarez, a former NYC detective and 9/11 first responder, died June 30, 2019 of colorectal cancer. He was 53. Alvarez fought until the end of his life for the extending of the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund. Hundreds of people gathered to say goodbye to Luis Alvarez, the retired police officer who fought for continued health benefits for 9/11 first responders even as he was dying of cancer.

When terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, Alvarez raced to the scene and spent weeks at Ground Zero looking for survivors and human remains. In 2016, Alvarez was diagnosed with colorectal cancer that had spread to his liver, one of thousands of cancer cases linked to the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Strikingly thin, pale and frail when he testified on June 11, he told lawmakers he was scheduled to receive his 69th round of chemotherapy the next day but felt compelled to come.

His 69th round of chemo, scheduled for June 12, never happened. As he was about to receive the treatment, the nurse noticed he was disoriented, Alvarez wrote on Facebook a few days later. Tests showed his liver had shut down because of the tumors. There was nothing else the doctors could do, so Alvarez started hospice care. Two weeks after his testimony, a group of his fellow 9/11 first responders gave his badge to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In his final days, Alvarez continued to urge lawmakers to reauthorize the 9/11 victims' fund. He worried about more people getting sick as time went on, noting it took many years for his cancer to develop following the 2001 terrorist attacks. Still, he had no regrets about working at Ground Zero. Alvarez’s story and powerful testimony to help his fellow 9/11 first responders — showing up on Capitol Hill even as he was grimly ill — turned him into a nationalized figure and prompted widespread messages of support.