The family of NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez received the key to the city in his honor during a solemn City Hall ceremony Tuesday.
Alvarez became a national hero as he testified in Congress, a day before his 69th round of chemotherapy was scheduled, urging members to permanently extend the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund on behalf of his fellow 9/11 first responders.
Alvarez died weeks later from complications from 9/11-related cancer that he traced back to his three months working at Ground Zero. He was laid to rest in June at Immaculate Conception Church in the Ditmars section of Astoria where he was raised.
“Luis Alvarez is a portrait in courage. He never stopped fighting for his brothers and sisters who came to the aid of our city on our darkest days — even until the end,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “Today, we honor a life of extraordinary service, and pledge to never forget the sacrifices he made on behalf of his fellow New Yorkers. His legacy lives on in all of us.”
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who championed the VCF, called Alvarez a true American hero and one of the most courageous, honorable and profoundly decent people she had ever known.
“His lifetime of service can never be repaid, but his legacy lives on,” Maloney said. “This July, we fulfilled his dying wish by passing the never Forget the Heroes Act to fully fund and make permanent the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. Because of Detective Alvarez and his courage, that fund is available t0every first responder, survivor and family who needs it. It is hard to think of anyone more deserving of this honor.”
After the Mayor presented the gold-plated key to Alvarez’s wife Alaine Parker Alvarez, Councilman Donovan Richards, the Chair of the Committee on Public Safety, said no one was more deserving of the honor.
“Detective Alvarez served in the NYPD with honor and distinction before September 11, 2001, and then put his health and safety on the line as a first responder in the rescue and cleanup efforts,” Richards said. “Today’s honor will immortalize his efforts fighting for all of the 9/11 first responders while ensuring that his family knows how much he meant to this city and that he will never be forgotten.”
Comedian Jon Stewart joined 9/11 first responder John Feal at the City Hall ceremony and remembered the lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill with Alvarez and other first responders who suffered with 9/11-related illnesses.
“It’s the walking wounded,” Stewart said. “There is every ailment that you could possibly come across between sarcoidosis and cancers and COPD, and oxygen tanks — and amongst them, Lou was the iron man. He was Lou Gehrig. He was going through things that none of us, even those that were facing their own challenges, couldn’t possibly imagine enduring. His strength was so inspirational and gave us all such a feeling of resilience. So now, it’s time for this city, that he loved, that he served, that loved him back, to honor him in a way that will make him part of our history forever.”
For those experiencing health complications from breathing contaminated air at Ground Zero, visit this website for more information on the 9/11 Victim Compensation Act.