NEW YORK — A college student lost his dad to a 9/11-related illness when he was just three years old and now, years later, an organization started in the wake of the terror attacks has helped pay for his tuition.

Matthew Brophy was just three when his dad, an NYPD officer, died. His mother, a nurse, was forced to raise him all alone.

“My mom became a widow,” Brophy said. “The scholarship helped a lot with my education.”

The First Responders Children’s Foundation was able to lift some of the financial burden off Brophy’s family, helping to pay for his college education.

The First Responders Children’s Foundation was started in 2001, just three months after the 9/11 attacks. Since then, the organization has been providing scholarships to kids who lost a first responder parent.

According to the FDNY, more than 800 children lost a first responder parent on that fateful September day in lower Manhattan.

Brophy’s dad wasn’t working that day, but he rushed to help.

“I miss my father that I never had,” Brophy, now a sophomore at Adelphi University, said.

More than $700,000 in scholarship money was given out this year, according to Jillian Crane, the president of the First Responders Children’s Foundation.

“It’s just amazing to help children reach their every day potential, especially children of everyday heroes who risk their lives for us,” Crane said.

At the World Trade Center site Thursday, just two weeks from 9/11, Brophy described what the commemoration is like each year for him.

“You almost can’t escape that day,” he said. “Everyone wants to talk to the kid who’s father passed on 9/11.”

That’s not the hardest part.

“It’s not having a dad around,” he said.

More information about First Responders Children’s Foundation is available at