By Allyson Escobar and Emily Drooby
A Queens hometown hero was laid to rest today.
The funeral Mass for Luis Alvarez was held on Wednesday, July 3 at Immaculate Conception parish in Astoria, Queens. Alvarez was one of many New York police detectives and first responders to the terror attack on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
The 53-year-old Alvarez died on Saturday, June 29, after a three-year battle with colon cancer, which is reportedly linked to the three months he spent working at Ground Zero.
Hundreds of service members in uniform came to the emotional procession outside of the Astoria church, followed by an emotional funeral Mass of the Resurrection, celebrated by Msgr. Fernando Ferrarese,pastor of Immaculate Conception. The homilist was Father John P. Harrington.
Alvarez’s father served as a deacon at the parish for many years.
At the funeral Mass the Gospel reading came from the Book of Matthew, echoing the heart of service Luis had: ‘Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“We are asked in faith, dear brothers and sisters, to do something very simple…you saw him give testimony. You may have captured a sense of his dedication to the call, the body of the Marines and the police department, sustained by his loving family all through the years,” said Father Harrington in his homily.
“It’s the word of thanks for all the good that has been received through our brother, Luis. As we come to that respect, to the dignity of each person. This is the faith is the way we join ourselves to Christ.”
Alvarez appeared before Congress in June, alongside other first responders and servicemen pushing for the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund, a federally funded program that compensates victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Congress last authorized funding for the program in 2015 for use until 2020, but that money is running out.
Under the current bill which cleared before the House Judiciary on June 12, Congress would approve an unspecified amount of funding for the program until 2090. The bill now awaits a vote before the full House of Representatives. If passed by the House, the bill would then go to the U.S. Senate and eventually to President Trump.In his testimony, Alvarez said, “I should not be here today but you made me come. You made me come because I will not stand by and watch my friends with cancer from 9/11 like me are valued less than anyone else is because of when they get sick or die.”
According to Dr. Michael Crane at Mt. Sinai Hospital, 10,000 first responders and victims have been diagnosed with cancer related to Sept. 11. At least 2,000 deaths are also attributed with 9/11 illnesses and disease.
“We pray that Congress and Senate heard his message and that he will have died a happy man for his efforts for the World Trade Center Fund, for the Victim Compensation Fund,” Luis’s brother Phillip Alvarez said at a news conference, “I will guarantee that if we need to go down there again, I will go down there again.”
“Despite 69 rounds of chemo, he continued to fight and continued to use what voice he could to get his message across,” said David Alvarez, Luis’s son.
Remembering NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez
Alvarez was born in 1965 in Cuba. His family immigrated to New York, where he grew up and attended school in the Immaculate Conception parish community.
Alvarez graduated from Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in Elmhurst, and later studied at the City University of New York. Soon after graduating, he enrolled in the U.S. Marine Corps and later joined the NYPD in 1990, serving the 108th Precinct in Long Island City.
His service included volunteering in the bomb squad and working as an undercover detective for both the NYPD and the Department of Homeland Security. He later retired in 2010 due to illnesses.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “The city can never repay its debt to Detective Lou Alvarez. It will be my honor to award him with a posthumous Key to the City as a symbol of our profound respect and gratitude for his service and sacrifice.”
Alvarez had asked his pastor Msgr. Ferrarese that, at his funeral, the public remember the victims of 9/11, as well as all fallen police officers and service members.
Alvarez is survived by his wife, Lainie, and 3 sons; David, Tyler and Benjamin.