What to Know
- A wake for retired NYPD Detective Luis Alvarez will be held at Towers Funeral Home in Oceanside fomr 1 p.m.-4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- Before he died, Alvarez wrote a note to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel, pleaing for an extension of benefits to 9/11 first responders
- Instead of flowers, Alvarez's family has requested donations in his name to charities
The final salute to former NYPD detective and 9/11 hero Luis Alvarez, who spent his final days pleading with Congress on behalf of his fellow first responders, started Tuesday afternoon.
Family, friends and fellow New Yorkers paid tribute to the hero during his wake Tuesday at Towers Funeral Home in Oceanside -- just days after he died from 9/11-related cancer over the weekend.
"Before he became a hero across this country, he was always mine" his son, David Alvarez, said during a press conference outside the funeral home. "I remember my father the way I will, but I always appreciate the memory the rest of the country will hold of him."
Alvarez's brother, Phillip Alvarez, shared similar sentiments when addressing the public outside the wake.
"On behalf of the Alvarez family we'd like to thank everybody for the overwhelming love and support," Phillip said. "We thank you for giving my brother these last few weeks as his life was ending. His message was: 'Take care of each other and take care of yourselves.'"
Alvarez's impact is felt -- the long line of those wanting to pay tribute to the NYPD hero is testiment to that.
He not only took on 69 rounds of chemotherapy for the colon cancer he suffered, but he took on Congress. The image of a dying man, valiantly fighting -- alongside comedian Jon Stewart -- addressing lawmakes on Capitol Hill is still emblazoned in the minds of many.
At the end of his three-year battle with colon cancer, Alvarez wrote a note to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, pleading for an extension of benefits to first responders who suffer from 9/11-related illnesses. "My time to leave this world is fast approaching. My goal and legacy in this world was to see VCF (Victims Compensation Fund) bill passed," the handwritten note read, in part.
After working the grounds of 9/11 adn becoming sick because of it, Alvarez became a fierce advocate for all who worked Ground Zero to get checked out and sign up for the Victims Compensation Fund.
"We hope and we pray that Congress and Senate heard his message and that he will have died a happy man for his efforts," Phillip went on to say at the press conference.
Retired detectives from the NYPD Bomb Squad also addressed those in attendance during the wake, including former detective, Brian.
"He is such a quiet man but it didn't necessarily surprise me because of his character and the type of person he was -- he just wanted to help others," Brian said.
On Monday, Mayor de Blasio said he will posthumously award Alvarez with a Key to the City "as a symbol of our profound respect and gratitude for his service and sacrifice."
At an unrelated press conference Tuesday, NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill said Alvarez had an "unwavering dedication to service and also an enduring commitment to the people of New York City and our nation including every single first responder and volunter who showed up to work on September 11 and the weeks and months afterward."
"All Lou wanted in return was to have his government recognize their efforts by making sure they were taken care of medically when they fall ill," O' Neill said, describing Alvarez as "a shining example."
Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised a vote on a bill to extend the benefits -- after a group of Alvarez's colleagues went to McConnell's office and presented him with the dying detective's badge.
Meanwhile, Staten Island Congressman Max Rose will be hosting a town hall Tuesday night to talk about permanently funding the 9/11 victim's compensation fund.
Alvarez wake is scheduled at Towers Funeral Home in Oceanside from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. His funeral service will take place Wednesday at Immaculate Conception Church in Astoria at 10 a.m.
Instead of flowers, Alvarez's family has requested donations in his name to charities like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Kids Need More and FealGood Foundation, according to family representative Matt McCauley.
"The Alvarez Family greatly appreciates the respect and outpouring of love and sympathy that has been shown for them in honor or Lou," McCauley said in a statement.
Alvarez passed away at the age of 53. He left behind three children
Family and friends say Alvarez did not like recognition, but on Tuesday he was remembered, as perhaps one of the greatest heroes who ever wore and NYPD badge.
"My father would want to remembered as a man who tried his best to raise his voice the right way. He wanted to be remembered -- like so many other first responders -- as someone who rushed in without hesitation and would of it again in a heartbeat," Alvarez's son, David, said.