Testifying before Congress. Photo by UPI. Front photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images
Luis Alvarez, the retired New York City cop and former 9/11 First Responder who last week joined Jon Stewart to testify before Congress the day before he was scheduled to undergo his 69th round of chemotherapy, has entered hospice care for the Stage 4 liver cancer he developed working at Ground Zero. A former bomb squad detective and father of three sons, Alvarez evidently contracted his cancer as a member of the "bucket brigade," trying to salvage the remains of other NYPD and FDNY members; he retired in 2010 and said he felt "blessed" he only got sick "16 years after the fact." Alvarez traveled to D.C. last week with other First Responders and their families to urge Congress to provide longterm funding for the 9/11 Victim’s Compensation Fund, which is running short on money and declining new claims. Also testifying were Stewart, who raged at lawmakers to "do your job," and John Feal, who's attended 180 funerals for colleagues and who blasts years of unconscionable stalling by Mitch McConnell and the GOP that have required sick people to keep taking trips to D.C. that are "brutal" for them.
That was clearly true for the painfully frail, wan Alvarez, who told lawmakers, “You made me come down here the day before my 69th round of chemo...I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer from 9/11, like me, are valued less than anyone else." Alvarez said he never regretted his work on The Pile - "I did not want to be anywhere else but Ground Zero when I was there" - but "now the 9/11 illnesses have taken many of us, and we are all worried about our children, our spouses and our families (if) we are not here.” "We did our job," he said. "Congress has to do theirs." Earlier, Alvarez insisted, "I'm nobody special...There's plenty of guys like me - I did what all the other guys did, and now we’re paying the price for it." That price got steeper on Thursday, when Alvarez announced on Facebook he was "still here, still breathing," but he has entered hospice "because there is nothing else the doctors can do." Even so, he would try to do a few more interviews "to keep a light on our fight for (the) benefits we all justly deserve." "I'm at peace," he wrote. "I will continue to fight until the Good Lord decides it’s time." Man. In the name of justice, we can only hope the Good Lord takes McConnell and his soulless, cynical, scumbag cronies instead.
Update: Alvarez has died of cancer he contracted while working on The Pile. His family says he was at peace knowing how many lives he had touched with his fight for justice. Let it not be in vain. He was 53.
Alvarez in happier, healthier times. Facebook photo