House passes ‘Never Forget the Heroes Act’ a week after Detective Luis Alvarez’s Astoria funeral

AP Photo/Richard Drew

A week after NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez was laid to rest at Immaculate Conception Church in Astoria, in the Ditmars neighborhood where he was raised, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the 9/11 Victims Compensation bill, the legislation Alvarez lobbied so hard for before his death.

Representatives voted 402-12 to advance H.R. 1327, now known as the Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which is due to run out of funding next year.

“After 9/11, we vowed to never forget. With that promise, we committed to making sure these heroes never have to go without the support they need and never have to wonder if support will be there for them and their families,” Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney said. “The true Twin Towers in New York are the FDNY and the NYPD. And I will not rest until this program is made permanent and this bill is signed into law.”

Alvarez, 53, succumbed to colorectal and liver cancer he had battled for the last three years, and his death came just weeks after his emotional testimony in Congress urging them to extend funding to cover health benefits to first responders and survivors.

He spent three months on the pile at Ground Zero searching for survivors and remains while breathing in the toxic dust that has claimed the lives of nearly 400 first responders who battled 9/11-related cancers and other respiratory diseases.

More than 2,000 active FDNY personnel and nearly 1,000 members of the NYPD have been forced into early retirement. Following his own retirement in 2012, Alvarez joined the Feel Good Foundation with other first responders who travelled to Capitol Hill often over the years to fight for the funding.

“This is no longer about a CBO score, or passing legislation,” 9/11 First Responder and Advocate John Feal said. “This 15-year journey is about cementing the legacies of James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer & Luis Alvarez, It is finally time for Congress and the Senate to stand united and ease the pain of a fragile community who have endured too much pain and suffering.”

Alvarez entered hospice on June 20 and five days later, Feal and his team returned to Washington for a meeting with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who committed to bringing the bill to a vote in the Senate after Feal gave him Alvarez’s detective shield to remind him that first responders are still dying from 9/11.

After the VCF passed in the House, Senator Charles Schumer called on McConnell to hold that vote in the Senate.

“This was an overwhelming expression of bipartisan support for our brave first responders and their families,” Schumer said. “Senator McConnell should put the House passed bill on the Senate floor for a vote ASAP and not let other Republicans push them to the back burner like the last time.”

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