Thousands gather to mourn 9/11 first responder who fought for other Ground Zero workers

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OCEANSIDE -

Thousands gathered for a final goodbye Wednesday to an NYPD hero from Oceanside at the Immaculate Conception Church in Astoria.

Luis Alvarez, 53, was a 9/11 first responder who spent his final days fighting for other Ground Zero workers.

At his wake Tuesday, Alvarez's family described him as a quiet man, the man they knew was just a normal guy.

However, last month the nation learned just what a fighter Alvarez was. Alvarez was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, a retired NYPD Bomb Squad detective and a 9/11 first responder who sat alongside Jon Stewart on Capitol Hill to fight for the replenishing of the 9/11 victims' compensation fund.

At that point he was also fighting another battle, cancer from spending weeks inhaling the toxic dust at Ground Zero.

Alvarez died over the weekend, but before he did, his brother Phil says he continued to speak out.

"He knew he only had a few days, but he just wanted to finish the job that he started," said Phil Alvarez.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, along with a seemingly never-ending line of mourners came to pay their respects at Alvarez's wake.

"You know, most people would want to spend their last days and weeks with their family," says John Feal, of the FealGood Foundation. "Luis wanted to make a difference."

"He was a hero, and because of him we are going to pass this bill," says Rep. Peter King.

Alvarez's former partner said, "Luis was the quietest man I have ever worked with, but in the end, he made the most noise."

Alvarez's son and sister spoke during the services. Jon Stewart was also present at the funeral.

"Before he became an American hero, he was mine," says his son David Alvarez. "He was my hero. My inspiration, the one, above all, I wanted to make proud."

Alvarez's brother says his fight has now become the entire family's fight and they will see it through till the end. He leaves behind a wife and three sons.

In a statement, the family called Alvarez a warrior and asked everyone to remember his words: "Please take care of yourselves and each other."

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