‘He just wanted to do what’s right’: 9/11 first responder and advocate Luis Alvarez mourned in Astoria

John P. Harrington
AP Photo/Richard Drew

Hundreds of people gathered outside Immaculate Conception Church in Astoria on Wednesday for the funeral of Luis Alvarez, an NYPD detective and 9/11 first responder.

Alvarez, who died from complications with colon cancer on June 29 at age 53, spent his last years fighting for 9/11 first responders’ funding.

A former marine and bomb squad detective who searched for survivors in the aftermath of 9/11, Alvarez testified before the House Judiciary Committee with former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, urging legislators to restore the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which is expected to expire by 2020 without renewed funding.

The funeral was attended politicians and public figures including Police Commissioner James O’Neill, Congressman Peter King and former Daily Show host Jon Stewart. A uniformed procession of NYPD officers as well as firefighters and state police stretched for blocks around the church. 

A line of police officers at the funeral of Detective Luis Alvarez

“Everything he said was said for the benefit of other people. He made a plea that he had been many places and had seen many things but he would have been no other place but Ground Zero or the Pentagon or Shanksville. As he said, we stood up before the world and said terrorism would not have its day,” said Father John Harrington.

Harrington, who served as Alvarez’s pastor when he was growing up in East Elmhurst, spoke on Alvarez’s personal life, his devotion to the Marine Corps and Police Department, and selflessness.

Video via Twitter/@NYPDNews

The son of Cuban immigrants, Alvarez, joined the NYPD in 1990, where he served as an undercover narcotics officer before switching to the bomb squad. He is survived by his wife and three children. 

When O’Neill addressed the parishioners, he made the political point that no person who responded on 9/11 “should ever have to beg our elected officials to act,” citing the fact that more than 500 members of the NYPD have contracted illnesses as a result of their work. 

“Detective First Grade Luis Alvarez was an authentic man. He let you know exactly what he thought,” said O’Neill. “At the end of the day, Lou just wanted to do what’s right. And he wanted others, particularly those in positions of great power, to follow suit.”

While the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to support sick survivors and extend the VCF until 2090, the full House is not expected to vote on the measure next month. 

After Alvarez sent handwritten note to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the senator pledged to pass the VCF bill before August recess.

“Please look deep into your conscious and realize it’s the right thing to do and if you pass it I will die a happy man,” Alvarez wrote in his note.

The NYPD Emerald Society Pipes and Drums help lead the funeral procession

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