NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Det. Luis Alvarez, who became the face of the 9/11 health crisis, was laid to rest Wednesday.
Alvarez passed away Saturday at the age of 53, following a three-year battle with colorectal cancer.
The retired NYPD detective and former U.S. Marine touched so many lives, which was evident in the long line of mourners who gathered for his wake Tuesday in Oceanside.
Watch: Full Funeral Service For Det. Luis Alvarez:
“Before he became a hero across this country, he was always mine,” said his son, David Alvarez. “He was always the man that I looked up to, who inspired me.”
“His message was one that is really simple. It’s like, take care of each other and take care of yourselves,” his brother, Philip Alvarez, said.
“He was a dedicated policeman. He loved his job. He loved what he did. He was a hero,” family friend Eduardo Figueroa said.
Alvarez’s illness was linked to the months he spent exposed to toxins at ground zero after the Twin Towers collapsed.
“It was hard to see what Lou went through, but it also made me proud,” retired FDNY firefighter Ray Serra said.
He received benefits from the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which was in danger of running out of money next year. So he spent his final days fighting for those who need that help, taking his battle to Washington and moving the nation.
“You all said you would never forget. Well I’m here to make sure that you don’t,” Alvarez testified before Congress.
Many said they’ll never forget his selflessness.
“I’ll tell you this: We can thank God it was Luis Alvarez that stepped forward to make that demand on behalf of every citizen of our country,” NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill said.
“Humble that he was, he hoped to have some small piece in that,” said Aida Lugo, Alavarez’s sister.
“Oh my God, what inner strength. I don’t know if I would have that inner strength,” Astoria, Queens resident Mary Haussler said.
In his last days, surrounded by family in hospice care, Alvarez continued to focus on others.
“Trying to get this legislation passed as soon as we can to help other first responders,” he told CBS2’s Maurice DuBois.
His family said they will make sure his legacy lives on.
“He was at peace. I was at peace knowing that he was happy with everything that he accomplished,” his son said.
Wednesday’s funeral service got underway at 10 a.m. at Immaculate Conception Church in Astoria.
An Alvarez family spokesperson said they wanted to thank everyone for not just showing up Wednesday, but for supporting Alvarez during his three-year battle with cancer. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Kids Need More and the FealGood Foundation.