Jacksonville man trades in corporate job to become a firefighter after 9/11

DUVAL COUNTY, Fla. — September 11th was the deadliest day for first responders in America.

“343. That is a number that is engrained in the fire service and that’s the amount of fire fighters that died that day,” Chuck Baldin, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters, said.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and among them, the brave first responders that rushed into harm’s way.

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“I think those firefighters saved a lot of people,” Baldwin said.

Many more first responders would die over the years from cancer and illnesses linked to exposure from toxic debris at ground zero.

Baldwin remembers sitting at his computer in his corporate office in Jacksonville watching the World Trade Center towers fall 20 years ago.

“I went through that whole experience just like everybody else did and I grieved and as I watched the days go on and those firefighters searching to find their fellow firefighters and the police officers and civilians that were there trying to find survivors,” he said.

It was then that he felt a new calling in life: a desire to help others.

“And you know what I decided to become? A fireman. I did a complete pivot in my life, and I said, ‘hey I’m going to take it up,’” he said.

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He hasn’t looked back since. Today, he’s the secretary – treasurer for the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters.

For Baldwin, joining the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department back in 2004 meant he was joining a family of people who all want to serve their community and to help someone in the worst possible moments of their life.

Even though Baldwin’s children weren’t born yet, he said it is important they talk about what happened on 9/11 and the sacrifices made.

“It’s all around about respect and honor and that’s what ‘never forget’ means, never forget,” Baldwin said.

The World Trade Center Health Program offers healthcare to those directly affected by the 9/11 attacks.

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the WTC Health Program, since June of 2021, more than 81,000 first responders have enrolled in this program that provides free medical treatment.