9/11 Stories: Phil Alvarez

It’s an image no one will ever erase from their memory. The sight of a gaunt, ashen, and painfully frail NYPD Bomb Squad Detective Lou Alvarez, by his side, a furious Jon Stewart at a mostly empty House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on a bill to make The Victim Compensation fund, which helps first responders made ill by the 9/11 dust permanent. Now, 19 years after the attacks, EVERY 9/11 first responder knows it’s not a question of whether they will get ill, but when. Despite 69 chemotherapy treatments and numerous surgeries for his liver cancer, retired Detective Alvarez traveled from New York City to Washington one last time to try to convince Congress to never forget those heroes who joined the 9/11 rescue and recovery, some working 8 months at Ground Zero. Retired Suffolk County police officer Phil Alvarez, Lou’s older brother, joined Lou on many of these lobbying trips, including his last. The Congressional chamber was filled with ailing 9/11 first responders and other 9/11 activists, but the panel to see and hear them was mostly absent. Lou’s testimony got a tearful standing ovation in the chamber. Phil drove his brother back home to Long Island. The next day, Lou reported for another round of chemo, only to be told that his cancer was too far gone, and it would not help. This 53 year old hero died 18 days after the trip to address Congress. Exactly one month after Lou Alvarez died, then President Trump signed into law the bill making the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund permanent, covering the next 70 years. The bill was named “Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeiffer and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act.”