Hero 9/11 firefighter who stood next to George Bush at Ground Zero dies aged 91

Bob Beckwith, a retired firefighter who once stood beside George W Bush in the rubble after the September 11 terrorist attacks, has died. He was 91.

Mr Beckwith had been retired for seven years and was living on Long Island the day the Twin Towers were hit, but hurried to the scene to assist with search-and-rescue efforts.

“I told my wife, ‘I’m going down,’” Mr Beckwith told CNN in 2005.

Days into the efforts, the president showed up to give a speech. Mr Beckwith stood atop the wreckage of a burnt fire truck to get a better view — not expecting Mr Bush would end up standing up there beside him, an arm around his shoulder, in what would become an enduring image.

Mr Beckwith died in hospice care on Sunday after many years with cancer, his wife, Barbara Beckwith told the Associated Press.

“He was just lucky. He was at the right place, at the right time, and that’s why he’s famous,” Ms Beckwith said. “But he was a regular guy. Well-liked and quiet. Just a regular Joe.”

President George W Bush with Bob Beckwith

(Copyright 2001 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

Former New York congressman Pete King announced his death on Twitter/X, calling him “an American icon who personified the best of the FDNY, New York and America at our most perilous moment.”

The union representing New York firefighters shared their “deep sorrow” at the news in a tweet.

“Bob is one of the heroes of 9/11 who stood tall for America, New York City and all New Yorkers,” the union wrote. “He spent many hours searching for the members we lost on that fateful day in 2001.”

Mr Bush stayed in touch with Mr Beckwith over the years, and had spoken to him as his health declined, Ms Beckwith said. In a statement, Mr Bush extended his condolences to the family.

“When the terrorists attacked, Bob suited back up and, like so many brave first responders, raced toward the danger to save and search for others,” Mr Bush said. “His courage represented the defiant, resilient spirit of New Yorkers and Americans after 9/11. 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.”

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