Some of the men and women who rushed in to help at Ground Zero said they've paid the price with their health.
The federal government said it will now pick up the tab for some cancer treatments.
About 20,000 September 11 responders and survivors receive treatment for illnesses.
"It's hard. I can still hear his voice calling me. Him saying, 'I have to go and do this. It's my job, and this is what I do. I'm going to be okay,' and it hurts," said Jessica McCormick, of Bethlehem, as she remembered her brother, Ryan, a first responder to Ground Zero. "He had a horrible, horrible cough, fevers."
The symptoms, McCormick said, began less than a year after Ryan spent several days sifting through the twin towers rubble. He died in 2008 after battling Hodgkin's disease.
"He felt he was one of the lucky ones for having such wonderful health care," McCormick said.
But many 9/11 first responders stricken with cancer haven't been covered, as scientists said there's scant evidence that exposure to toxic dust from the destroyed twin towers caused cancer.
Now, the federal government has expanded free medical care for 50 different types of cancers for Ground Zero responders.
"Fact these additional forms of cancers have been added is very significant," said New York City police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
The coverage comes under the Zadroga Law, named after James Zadroga, a police detective who worked hundred of hours at Ground Zero and died at the age of 34 due to respiratory illness.
For McCormick, memories run deep and tears continue to fall, especially when reading Ryan's now-printed blog, which was aimed at enacting better health care coverage for 9/11 first responders and living victims.
"Reminds me everything he's gone through and what his fight was for," McCormick tearfully said.
James Zadroga's family estimates at least 400 people have died from 9/11-related cancers.