NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill, speaking at Wednesday’s funeral for retired Detective Luis Alvarez, urged Congress to fulfill the dying wish of the 9/11 responder, who spent his final days on Capitol Hill fighting to replenish a vital fund for Ground Zero workers.
The city’s top cop took on the fight at the emotional service for the 53-year-old former bomb-squad officer, who died over the weekend of cancer linked to the three months he spent at The Pile.
“It is in Lou’s memory that we must strenuously encourage all our representatives to recognize that the United States of America cannot in good conscious place a financial cap or temporal limit on this slow-moving crisis,” O’Neill told mourners.
“They absolutely must vote to extend and to shore up adequate funding for the [9/11 Victims Compensation Fund] indefinitely because, as Lou … flatly insisted, it’s the right thing to do.”
Nearly three weeks before his death, a frail Alvarez appeared before the House Judiciary Committee to provide an impassioned plea to restore the fund, which is set to expire next year.
“It was also his enduring commitment to the people of New York City and our nation, including every single first responder and volunteer, to ensure their work on Sept. 11 and weeks and months afterward as a duty plain and simple,” O’Neill said.
“[Alvarez] and they viewed their reference as an obligation that they promised long ago to the people we serve,” O’Neill said. “And all Lou wanted in return was to have his government recognize the labor and pain of his brothers and sisters by making sure that they’re taken care of medically when they’ve fallen ill.”
The police commissioner said Alvarez was one of more than 500 officers who contracted various ailments or life-threatening illnesses from their service.
“As of this morning, 222 of them have already died, including Lou Alvarez, and tomorrow that number could rise, and in the years ahead, it most assuredly will,” O’Neill said.
Hundreds of mourners, including cops and firefighters, gathered to salute Alvarez, who asked all 9/11 victims be honored at his service.
“I’ll tell you this, we can thank God for Lou Alvarez, who stepped forward to make that demand on behalf of every citizen and resident of our country,” O’Neill said.