9/11 first responder Luis Alvarez remembered for his bravery

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A funeral was held Wednesday morning for a former New York City police detective who fought until his final days for the extension of health benefits for Sept. 11 first responders.

Hundreds of NYPD officers saluted the flag-draped casket of former Detective Luis Alvarez as it was brought into the Immaculate Conception Church in Astoria, Queens.

Alvarez died Saturday of colorectal cancer. He attributed his illness to the three months he spent digging through rubble at the World Trade Center after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Alvarez appeared in June before the House Judiciary Committee with former "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart to plead for a bill that would extend the Sept. 11 Victims' Compensation Fund.

Stewart declined to speak to reporters Wednesday.

"This brave man, this steadfast, stubborn man, who despite 69 rounds of chemo, continued to fight and continued to use what voice he could to get his message across," said David Alvarez, Luis's son.

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

"I'm leaving them without a father and there is plenty like me, like I said, I'm not special, there's plenty of guys like me," Alvarez said in his hospice bed days before he died.

Sick and dying, Alvarez took himself to D.C. to testify before Congress. Right before Alvarez died, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell promised the Senate would pass a bill by early August to permanently fund the program. The bill is also awaiting a full House vote.

"He was at peace, and I was at peace knowing he was happy with everything he accomplished," David Alvarez said at the wake Tuesday.

Family, friends, and other 9/11 heroes are now vowing to push Alvarez's fight forward.

Several Ground Zero first responders gathered in Staten Island Tuesday for a town hall with Rep. Max Rose. They're asking for the fund to be expanded to include spouses.

"You're covered in the white dust of death, is what it was, and you brought it home," said Sal Farino, whose wife has thyroid and skin cancer.

Alvarez was born in Havana and raised in 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.

With the Associated Press