(DailyDig.com) – Retired fireman Bob Beckwith has died at 91. His unexpected meeting with President George W. Bush among the debris of Ground Zero was a symbol of American solidarity after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, in New York City.
His lengthy fight with cancer ended on February 4 in the evening while he was in hospice care, according to his wife, Barbara Beckwith. She announced the news on February 5.
During the moments and days following the attacks, 69-year-old Beckwith hurried to assist with rescue and eventually just search efforts, joining many other present and past first responders. He had been retired for seven years after his 30-year tenure in the FDNY in Queens at Ladder Co. 164.
Standing beside the president, the Long Island native wore his firefighter helmet as Bush gave a stirring address to exhausted first responders on the third day after terrorists killed 2,753 people by crashing aircraft into the World Trade Center’s twin towers.
According to Barbara, he was fortunate to be in his current situation. As he viewed the devastation, all he wanted was a good spot to watch the president. However, Bush took a surprising detour and climbed the smashed Co. 76 engine that Beckwith was on.
Beckwith helped Bush climb onto the fire vehicle. Barbara said the president had put his arm around him and told him to stay with him as he addressed the crowd.
While speaking from a bullhorn, Bush once again embraced Beckwith as he talked to the crowd of police officers, firemen, and others. In his address to the assembly, Bush assured them that they are not alone; the whole world can hear them. The audience erupted in chants of “USA! USA!” in response to his warning that the assailants would soon get a message from them.
Long Island, where Beckwith nurtured a family that now numbers six children and ten grandchildren, along with his two great-grandchildren, will host the wake on February 9 and the burial the next day.
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