GARDEN CITY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — An important deadline is fast approaching for some people to register for victims’ compensation from the 9/11 attacks, and it’s not just for first responders.

As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff explained Thursday, Court Cousins counts himself among the more fortunate. He survived 9/11. But 20 years later, he is paying for his decision to run to help from his volunteer firehouse to the smoldering ruins.

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“We were all working in a dust filled environment. We didn’t appreciate at the time the toxic nature of the dust. Nobody hesitated to do their job, whether it was a civilian assisting a first responder,” Cousins said.

Now, like so many who worked on the toxic pile, he is battling two 9/11-related cancers.

Cousins is registered with the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, but he’s sounding the alarm for those who are not. A July 29 deadline is approaching to register for financial and death benefits.

“There were firefighters and first responders, there were people who just worked there, there were hot dog cart vendors and office workers, kids going to school,” said Chief Robert Leonard of the Syosset Fire Department. “If you have had an illness that’s been documented that has been documented, you need to register with the program.”

The registration deadline was extended after tireless lobbying, but the rules as to who must register by next week can seem confusing. In the simplest terms, victims who already have a certified illness or lost a loved one more than two years ago must register by July 29. For everyone else, there’s no downside to registering now to preserve your rights — claims can be filed until 2090.

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“We are at a 60% higher risk chance of getting a 9/11-related cancer than the rest of the population. So it’s not a matter if I’m gonna get it, it’s when I’m going to get it,” said John Feal of the FealGood Foundation.

“Play it safe, don’t take a chance. Do it now, while the window is open,” Cousins said.

Even if someone is not yet sick, there is no harm in registering by next Thursday.

Sixty eight cancers and other illnesses have been linked to 9/11.

Some 300 people have lost their lives so far due to 9/11 related illnesses.

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CLICK HERE TO REGISTER, or call 1-855-885-1555.

Carolyn Gusoff