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Hundreds attend wake for fallen 9/11 first responder Luis Alvarez

“His message was really simple,” said Luis Alvarez's brother, Phil. "Take care of each other and take care of yourselves.”

Mourners in Oceanside Tuesday attend the wake for

Mourners in Oceanside Tuesday attend the wake for Luis Alvarez, the retired NYPD detective who kept up the fight to extend the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund even while he was terminally ill with 9/11-linked cancer. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Former NYPD officer and 9/11 victims advocate Luis Alvarez battled to the end to remind a nation that vowed to “never forget” that first responders continue to struggle with diseases linked to the horrific terrorist attacks, relatives and colleagues said Tuesday as hundreds of mourners lined up outside the Towers Funeral Home in Oceanside for his wake.

Phil Alvarez said his younger brother, who died Saturday, would have been uncomfortable with all the attention his death has received, but he was willing to pay that price to push Congress to aid the cops, firefighters and others who, like him, developed life-threatening diseases while searching the toxic rubble of the World Trade Center for survivors and the remains of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. 

“His message was really simple,” said Phil Alvarez, a retired Suffolk police detective. "Take care of each other and take care of yourselves.”

Alvarez, a former NYPD bomb squad detective, died on Saturday in a hospice in Rockville Centre. The cause of death was from complications of colorectal cancer. He was 53. 

Alvarez appeared with former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart just weeks before his death before a House Judiciary subcommittee on June 11 to plead with lawmakers to replenish the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which provides benefits to first responders and volunteers struggling with health problems linked to toxic chemicals at the World Trade Center site. Thousands of first responders and volunteers have developed diseases linked to the toxins at the site or are at risk of getting ill. 

“I will not stand by and watch as my friends with cancer from 9/11 like me are valued less than anyone else because when they get sick, they die,” a gaunt and gray-skinned Alvarez told lawmakers during his testimony last month. 

The $7 billion September 11th Victim Compensation Fund is being drained and has slashed benefit payments by up to 70 percent. Legislation pending before Congress would ensure the fund can pay benefits for 70 years, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) expressed concerns about the cost of the fund and Stewart and 9/11 victim advocates accused Congress of dithering while first responders suffered A bill to replenish the fund passed the full committee unanimously and McConnell -- after blistering criticism from Stewart -- said  he will allow a vote on the bill in August. 

“We hope and pray that the Congress and the Senate heard his message and that he will have died a happy man for his efforts for the World Trade Center fund, the victims compensation fund,” Phil Alvarez said.  “I can guarantee you if we need to go down there again, I will go down there again.  

“I will keep going until his message and his bill is passed,” Phil Alvarez added. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio arrived early to offer his condolences to the Alvarez family but did not speak to reporters. 

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Alvarez was an inspiring figure.  “He  didn’t stop fighting until the very end,” Bellone said. “He is a vivid example of courage and honor.” 

Alvarez’s funeral will be begin at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Immaculate Conception Church in Astoria, Queens.

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