NEW YORK — A former New York City police detective who fought until his final days for the extension of the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund was remembered Wednesday with a funeral service in Queens.
The funeral ceremony for Detective Luis Alvarez, 53, was held at Immaculate Conception Church in Astoria, New York.
Rev. John P. Harrington gave the homily, sharing personal and insightful memories of Alvarez.
"Everything he said was for the benefit of other people...He never referred to himself exclusively as 'I,'" Harrington recalled, speaking of Alvarez's selflessness.
Harrington, who was with Alvarez before he died, also shared a moving dialogue between Alvarez and his sister, Aida Lugo. "In the last hours of his life, he was comfortable but he was groaning, and [Aida] said to her beloved brother, 'What's wrong Louie?' He said, 'I'm tired and I'm walking,' and she said, 'Where are you, Louie?'"
"He said, 'I'm on the pile,'" Harrington recalled, likely referring to Ground Zero, where Alvarez worked for three months after the attacks. Alvarez later developed 9/11-related cancer due to his time at the site.
Harrington brought his homily to close with the poignant final words Alvarez said to him: "At the end, the only thing that matters is how much we loved."
NYPD Commissioner, James O’Neill, also reflected on Alvarez. O’Neill called Alvarez “a shining example of our city’s great diversity as well as the extraordinary call to service that so many courageous New Yorkers embrace.”
Alvarez died Saturday in a hospice center in Rockville Centre, New York, after a three-year battle with colorectal cancer. He attributed his illness to the three months he spent digging through rubble at the World Trade Center's Twin Towers after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
In June, a frail Alvarez appeared before the House Judiciary Committee with former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart to request the extension of the compensation fund, which provides health benefits to Sept. 11 first responders and is largely depleted.
"I did not want to be anywhere else but ground zero when I was there," Alvarez said at the hearing. "Now the 9/11 illnesses have taken many of us, and we are all worried about our children, our spouses and our families and what happens if we are not here."
Alvarez is survived by his parents, his wife, three siblings and three sons.
After Alvarez and Stewart's emotional testimony before Congress, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously in support of a bill that would extend funding through fiscal year 2090. The bill awaits a full House vote.
Alvarez was born in Havana, Cuba, and raised in Queens. He served in the Marines before joining the New York Police Department in 1990, and spent time in the Narcotics Division and the Bomb Squad.
Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted Monday that he plans to give Alvarez a posthumous key to the city "as a symbol of our profound respect and gratitude for his service." De Blasio also paid his respects at a wake in Long Island on Tuesday.
In a statement after his death, Alvarez's family called him their "warrior" and told people to remember his words: "'Please take care of yourselves and each other.'"
NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea tweeted that Alvarez was "an inspiration, a warrior, a friend."
Watch the funeral here: