REMEMBERING 9/11:

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The death toll from 9/11-related illnesses continues to rise.

Today, we remember those who have been sickened or lost their lives.

Late NYPD Det. Luis Alvarez spent months at the World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001 attack. He developed cancer and spent the rest of his life crusading for the 9/11 Victims Compensation Fund.

“It still leaves this empty void that my brother’s not around anymore,” his brother, Philip Alvarez, told CBS2’s Dick Brennan.

Alvarez was a Marine, NYPD detective and 9/11 hero who spent months at Ground Zero.

“As much as I want to honor him as a victim of 9/11, we’re thankful for the blessings of having him so many years,” said Philip.

Retired New York Police Department detective and 9/11 responder Luis Alvarez testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on reauthorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund on Capitol Hill on June 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

He contracted stage four cancer in 2016 and battled for years. But he will perhaps be most remembered for the fight he helped lead in Washington, D.C.

“I have been lucky enough to have had 68 rounds of chemo,” he told lawmakers in June.

Wracked by illness, Alvarez came to Congress to testify and starkly made the case to lawmakers who were dragging their feet over renewing the Victims Compensation Fund. His voice was soft, but his message was loud and clear.

“You all said you would ‘never forget.’ Well I’m here to make sure that you don’t,” he said.

“Being that voice, being chosen to be that voice – he was eyes wide open,” said Philip. “He knew he didn’t have much time left, he knew what he had to say and do that needed to be what he believe in.”

Alvarez inspired others, including comedian Jon Stewart, who blasted members of the House panel.

“Your indifference cost these men and women their most valuable commodity – time,” Stewart said.

Web Extra: Late Det. Lou Alvarez Honored In Brooklyn Ahead Of Anniversary 

With his time growing short, Alvarez was in hospice, where he spoke to CBS2’s Maurice DuBois days before he died.

“As long as God gives me the time, I’ll be here advocating,” he said at the time.

The bill renewing the Victims Compensation Fund was finally signed in a Rose Garden ceremony – too late for Alvarez to see it, but in time for so many who are suffering.

“Say a prayer for all the Lou Alvarezs out there. They were all Lou Alvarezs that fought for what they believed in. He just happened to be listened to at the end,” said Philip.

His brother said while this is the 18th anniversary of 9/11, it will be the first without his brother whose final days made all the difference in countless lives.

“He didn’t want to be any kind of star or hero,” Philip said. “He was, and we’re proud of that.”

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