One of the most famous heroes of the attacks of September 11, 2001, has died. Bob Beckwith did not plan to suit up the morning that the first plane hit the World Trade Center.
He was approaching 70 and had been retired. But like so many on that fateful day, he knew duty called and he down to the disaster site to try and help.
That’s when fate, and a president intervened.
The Associated Press writes:
Wearing his old firefighter helmet from Ladder Company 164 in Queens, the Long Island resident stood with President George W. Bush as he delivered a rousing speech to weary responders three days after hijackers crashed airplanes into the twin towers of the old World Trade Center, killing 2,753 people.
“He was just lucky. He was at the right place, at the right time, and that’s why he’s famous,” Barbara Beckwith said Monday by phone from the couple’s home in Baldwin, a suburb about 30 miles from Manhattan. “But he was a regular guy. Well-liked and quiet. Just a regular Joe.”
Beckwith was 69 years old and retired for seven years following a 30-year career when he rushed to help with search-and-rescue efforts as scores of other current and former first responders did in the hours and days after the attacks.
Beckwith said he was simply looking for a good vantage point to see the president as he surveyed the destruction. But Bush made an unexpected detour and hopped aboard the crushed Engine Co. 76 truck where he was standing, Beckwith recalled to the AP on the 10th anniversary of the attacks in 2011.
That’s when he helped the President of the United States, George W. Bush, climb on top of a tattered firetruck. As Bob began stepping down to give the president the stage, Bush put his hand around his shoulder:
“Where are you going?’” he asked. “‘You’re going to be right here with me.’”
“His courage represented the defiant, resilient spirit of New Yorkers and Americans after 9/11,” Bush said. “I was proud to have Bob by my side at Ground Zero days later and privileged to stay in touch with this patriot over the years. Laura and I send our condolences to Barbara and the Beckwith family as they remember this decent, humble man.”
The Uniformed Firefighters Association said Beckwith “is one of the heroes of 9/11 who stood tall for America, New York City and all New Yorkers.”
“Bob Beckwith was one of many retired FDNY members who responded to the World Trade Center site in the days and months following September 11, to aid in rescue and recovery, as a testament to their devotion to their FDNY family,” New York City Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said in a statement. “His iconic picture with President Bush captured a moment that was both inspiring and heartbreaking. We are grateful to his service to our city and our nation, and we join his family and friends in mourning his loss.”
Bob Beckwith was 91.