At the National Mall by the Lincoln Memorial, they’re going to try to make an impression on the Fourth of July. It’s a big thing, what with the talk, the tanks, the fireworks, the fighter jets, stealth bombers and everything else that surrounds the celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
It’s going to be impressive. But maybe, during the course of the time or before that the president gives his speech, he might give a thought to give a shout out to Luis Alvarez.
Now, there’s a guy who made an impression when he came to Washington on June 11.
Thin, gaunt even, with blazing eyes, Alvarez spoke in a voice that sounded like that made by the last embers of a fading fire in front of members of Congress.
Alvarez, 53, came to Washington, to speak for the ailing survivors who spent what turned out to be dangerous times on the deadly dusty remains of the World Trade Center — to speak for the first responders, the policemen, the firefighters, the helpers who rushed to Ground Zero after the towers were toppled by terrorists flying hijacked airplanes into them on Sept. 11, 2001.
He was one of them, a New York City police detective digging through the rubble, through what was left, for days. It was, as it turned out for him, and many others, a dangerous job, a deadly job.
Alvarez was at the U.S. Capitol June 11 with comedian and advocate John Stewart who delivered a memorable speech himself on behalf of men like Alvarez before members of a House Judiciary subcommittee, pleading for them to continue health benefits—the funds were dwindling and due to run out soon—for those who responded to the attacks.
Alvarez said, as reported by the New York Times, that day, in a voice strong with feeling, “I’m lucky to have the health care I’ve got, but there are guys out there who don’t have it. In terms of going through the stress of fighting cancer, they’re also fighting the financial stress of the health care.
In hospice, surrounded by his family, his children and loved ones, Alvarez died June 30. A picture showed him propped up in bed, looking straight ahead, bathed in the balm of the presence of his kin and family.
He died of complications from colorectal cancer, with which he was diagnosed in 2016, and which was linked to the three months Alvarez had spent on the site of the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.
In the Times article, he also said “I’m no one special, and I did what all the other guys did. Now we are paying for it…I got sick 16 years ago, and there’s workers out there who say ‘this isn’t going to happen to me. I’m O.K. The time has passed.’ That time doesn’t … is not going to pass.”
He worked as a policeman in the 108th Precinct in Long Island City, Queens, worked undercover and was promoted to detective. According to reports, he sought a less stressful assignment and volunteered for the Bomb Squad.
It’s fairly certain that the allocation bill in the Senate, scheduled for vote in August, will pass.
It’s also certain that he made quite an impression in Washington, and in New York, and with his family.
The family and the city and the country suffered a big loss with his sacrifice and passing. He was laid to rest the day before the Fourth of July, as people lined the streets of his town, and mourned with his family. One of his sons said, “My father was a hero. He was my hero.”
We all share in that loss, with his family, whose members are his mother, Aida; his father, Felipe; his wife, Alaine Parker Alvarez; his sons, David, Tyler and Benjamin; his sister, Aida Lugo and his brothers, Fernando and Phil.
He made an impression.