Hundreds of officers honor Luis Alvarez at funeral, detective who fought for 9/11 victims

Funeral service held for Luis Alvarez

Hundreds of New York City police officers honored a former detective who fought until his final days for the extension of health benefits for 9/11 first responders. The funeral ceremony for Detective Luis Alvarez, 53, was held at Immaculate Conception Church in Astoria, New York. Mourners included Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and comedian Jon Stewart who saluted Alvarez's casket.

Alvarez died Saturday in a hospice center after a three-year battle with colorectal cancer. He attributed his illness to the three months he spent digging through rubble after the World Trade Center's twin towers collapsed in the 2001 terrorist attack.

"Luis asked me and the family that we remember at this mass everyone who died on 9/11," Rev. John P. Harrington said at the service.

"Before he became a hero across this country, he was always mine," said Luis' son, David Alvarez. "He was always the man that I looked up to, who inspired me."

Luis Alvarez funeral
Comedian and activist Jon Stewart (C) and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, (C-L) salute the casket of retired NYPD detective Luis Alvarez as it is brought into Immaculate Conception Church on July 3, 2019, in the Queens borough of New York City. Getty

"His message was one that is really simple. It's like, take care of each other and take care of yourselves," said Luis' brother Philip Alvarez.

"He was a dedicated policeman. He loved his job. He loved what he did. He was a hero," family friend Eduardo Figueroa said.

In June, a frail Alvarez appeared before the House Judiciary Committee with former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart to request the extension of the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund, which has been 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."

Luis Alvarez funeral
The casket of retired NYPD detective Luis Alvarez is brought out of Immaculate Conception Church on Wed., July 3, 2019. Getty

Alvarez is survived by his parents, wife, three sons and three siblings.

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.

"My message to Congress is: We have to get together and get this bill passed as quickly as possible," Alvarez said in an interview with "CBS Evening News" in June. "I would love to be around when it happens. The government has to act like first responders, you know, put politics aside and let's get this bill done, because we did our job and the government has to do theirs."

Luis Alvarez funeral
Luis Alvarez's wife Lainie is joined by other family members as the casket of retired NYPD detective Alvarez is brought out of Immaculate Conception Church. Getty

"My purpose now is, regretfully, I can't throw the bomb suit on anymore and run around and do my job. As long as God gives me the time, I'll be here, advocating, because guys are dying now," Alvarez said. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to vote on legislation to reauthorize the Victims Compensation Fund later this summer.

Alvarez was born in Havana, Cuba, and raised in the New York City borough of 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 Tuesday at a wake on Long Island.

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Luis Alvarez CBS News

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."