Death of Luis Alvarez hits home for Boston 9/11 responders

Detective Luis Alvarez was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2016, which he traced to the three months spent in the rubble of the World Trade Center’s twin towers after the 2001 terrorist attacks


Alexi Cohan
Boston Herald

BOSTON — On the day a former New York City police detective and leader in the fight for the Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund died, fellow Boston-area first responders voiced their support for extending the crucial fund, which would give protection and peace of mind to affected families.

Detective Luis Alvarez was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2016, which he traced to the three months spent in the rubble of the World Trade Center’s twin towers after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Alvarez, who was a leader in the fight for the Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund died Saturday, June 29 at age 53. (Photo/US Network Pool via AP, Pool)
Alvarez, who was a leader in the fight for the Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund died Saturday, June 29 at age 53. (Photo/US Network Pool via AP, Pool)

Alvarez, who died Saturday, appeared with former “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart earlier this month to plead with Congress to extend the current victim compensation fund, which is running out.

Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged to reauthorize the fund in August, a move that Boston first responders said would greatly benefit those who charged into the pits of danger to save lives during the country’s worst tragedy.

John Giunta, Salem fire chief and rescue team manager with Massachusetts Task Force 1 during 9/11, said he knows several firefighters who have fallen ill since the attacks.

“Some that are pretty young and battling different types of cancer, it hits home when you hear that and you feel so bad, especially for young people with kids and families,” said Giunta.

Giunta said the funding “needs to go through,” as it would provide protection and coverage to families in need.

“The people that were down there did their jobs, so they need to be protected from what they were fighting being down there,” said Giunta, who reflected on the recent loss of his own task force colleague, Thomas Kenney, who spent countless hours at Ground Zero and died of cancer.

“A lot of us wouldn’t change a thing if we had do to it all over again because that’s what we are made of and that’s what we do and you risk your life to save others,” said Giunta.

As of May 31, the fund has awarded over $5 billion in compensation to over 22,000 individuals who suffered physical health conditions as a result of their exposure to the terrorist attacks, according to the Department of Justice.

At the beginning of this year, projections showed that the $7 billion in total funding would not be enough to pay all pending claims and claims expected to be filed.

Former New York police Commissioner Bill Bratton expressed his condolences on Twitter, writing, “Retired NYPD Detective Lou Alvarez fought for what was right until his last breath. He never wavered in his service to others — at Ground Zero and after he was diagnosed with 9/11 related cancer. Lou was the epitome of the NYPD’s motto, Fidelis Ad Mortem. We will #NeverForget.”

Mark Foster, Massachusetts Task Force 1 leader who responded to 9/11, said that of the 65 task force staff members who joined the recovery effort, three have died since the attacks.

“I do appreciate anyone that is helping to support the government funding because I still think the whole story isn’t really known yet,” said Foster, referring to the health conditions experienced by first responders, sometimes years after their work at Ground Zero.

Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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©2019 the Boston Herald

 

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