Opinion - We must finish hero’s mission
On Wednesday, we said our final farewell to NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez, a true American hero. As I sat in the Immaculate Conception Church in my FDNY turnout coat, surrounded by his family, friends, and brothers and sisters in blue, I thought to myself; Detective Alvarez’s last call may be over, but it is up to us to finish his mission.
Detective Alvarez dedicated his last breaths to taking care of the 9/11 community – the first responders, construction workers, volunteers and survivors who are now sick and the spouses left alone and the children left without parents because of illnesses caused by 9/11.
He used his story to shine a national spotlight on the need to fully fund and make permanent the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund so that no one in that community goes without the help they need and deserve. He made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and until the end, just wanted to help others.
Luis’ eldest son said that he will strive to be the man his dad raised him to be. We should all strive to meet that standard – to be a community bound together by helping one another – one that listened to his sage advice to “take care of yourselves and each other.”
We do that by making the VCF permanent, by passing the Never Forget the Heroes Act.
Reflecting on his time on the Pile searching for survivors, and then remains, Detective Alvarez said, “We were part of showing the world we would never back down from terrorism and that we could all work together. No races, no colors and no politics.”
He worked there for three months, and with every breath he took, he was defying the odds. But he was determined to do the right thing by his fellow first responders.
And then, 16 years later, when he was diagnosed with cancer that was the result of his time at Ground Zero, he fought the disease like a world champion through 68 rounds of chemotherapy. And he was ready to go still more rounds when the match was called.
Because of his courage and his unwavering moral convictions, he faced his challenges with grace and determination. Nothing could faze him. Not cancer, not terrorists, not bombs. Not even Congress.
He was an extraordinary man, and yet parts of Detective Alvarez’s story are all too common these days. Every day, those who worked on the Pile at Ground Zero, in Shanksville, and at the Pentagon are reporting new illnesses and diagnoses. These brave men and women are now also fighting to make sure that their families are taken care of when they can no longer work or are taken from us. That is unacceptable.
For Detective Alvarez, we fight on – we finish the mission.
With promises from Democratic and Republican leaders in both the House and Senate, we will get this bill passed through Congress before August. We will send this bill to the President’s desk to say to all first responders that we meant it when we said, “Never Forget.”
It is so fitting that this final part of Detective Alvarez’s legacy will be something to help others — the first responders, survivors, and their families — struggling in a thousand different ways as they live with the effects of 9/11 every single day. We can’t repay the debt we owe these heroes, but fully funding and making permanent the Victim Compensation Fund is the least we can do as grateful nation.
In all my conversations with Luis Alvarez, in all of his interviews and testimony, there is only one thing that he said that I disagree with.
In his last interview from hospice, he said “I’m no one special.”
I would respectfully disagree.
Rep. Maloney (D-N.Y.) is the lead sponsor of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund bill.