By Tim Harfmann and Andrew Pugliese
EAST ELMHURST — Luis Alvarez learned the importance of being compassionate and serving others during his four years at Msgr. McClancy Memorial H.S., East Elmhurst. Those were values Alvarez put into practice when he served in the Marine Corps, responded to the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and testified on Capitol Hill in June.
On Sept. 30, Alvarez, a 1983 graduate, was honored by McClancy at its first school Mass of the year, just three months after he died on June 29 at the age of 53. For three years, he had battled colon cancer, which was reportedly linked to the three months he spent working at Ground Zero.
Alvarez spent six years in the Marines after he graduated from McClancy. From there, he entered the New York Police Department. He first patrolled the 108th precinct in Long Island City before he moved to the NYPD’s narcotics unit, where he was on 9/11. He finished with the bomb squad, serving on the police force for 20 years in all. He ended his professional career with six years in the Department of Homeland Security.
He joined 9/11 first responders in Washington, D.C. in June, weeks before he died, to push for the approval of more funding for the September 11th Victims Compensation Fund, a federally funded program that compensates victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. His example resonates at McClancy.
“It shows that going forward we will be known,” said senior Roy Cronin-Finlay. “We have a voice.”
Matthew McCauley, a friend, sees Alvarez as a model for current McClancy students. The faith fostered in Alvarez was key to his amazing career, McCauley said.
The two were in the same NYPD Academy class in 1990, but never crossed paths while they were policemen. They finally met three years ago. In June, McCauley witnessed his friend’s Catholic faith as Alvarez put everyone else above himself. McCauley said the work Alvarez did for the compensation fund was unbelievable.
McCauley and several others joined Alvarez’s parents, Felipe and Aida, Alvarez’s eldest brother, Phil, and his sister Aida for the Mass on Sept. 30.
“For them to remember my brother in such an endearing way at Mass this morning is just an honor and makes the Alvarez family very happy,” said Phil, a police officer himself for 32 years in Suffolk County and a 1980 graduate of McClancy.
The Mass was celebrated by Msgr. David Cassato, a NYPD chaplain who was also at Ground Zero on 9/11.
In his homily, Msgr. Cassato pointed to the statue behind the altar depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus and recalled a story from World War II. An orphanage with a similar statue was bombed one day. The next morning, a child found the statue with its outstretched arms broken off. He left a note at the feet of Jesus that read, “My hands are gone, lend me yours.”
“Detective Luis Alvarez lent his arms out to do the work of Jesus,” Msgr. Cassato said. “Today, all of us are called to do (the Lord’s) work.”