The union of New York firefighters has announced the death of one of their heroic members, Bob Beckwith. Beckwith was the sole firefighter standing alongside then-President Bush as he addressed aid workers at ground zero in response to the 9/11 attacks.
That moment was captured in time, as the picture of Bush and Beckwith standing atop the wreckage of a firetruck would later make it to the front page of Times Magazine.
Beckwith was 91 at the time of his death, and the eventual cause of death is yet to be made public. However, while he lived, Beckwith admitted to being diagnosed with skin cancer, with some other minor symptoms.
In 2001, when terrorists rammed two commercial jets into the Twin Towers, the retired firefighter who stood beside President Bush during his 9/11 address at Ground Zero is no more. Bob Beckwith died at age 91. of the World Trade Center; Beckwith was already a retired fighter. However, the distress in Lower Manhattan that day made him rush to ground zero and once more put on firefighting gear. There were 2,783 casualties at the World Trade Center, 184 at the Pentagon, and another 40 at Shanksville, Pennsylvania. All were victims of the aftermath of four different plane hijacks.
That day, Beckwith became a national strength and resilience symbol for his sacrifice and heroism. Before the attacks, Beckwith was having life easy on Long Island, enjoying his well-deserved retirement. However, soon after hearing the news of the plane crashes in Lower Manhattan, he could tell it was beyond the scale of what a single fire department could handle.
So, he told his wife of his intent, got dressed, headed out to lend some helping hands, and used his wealth of experience. Beckwith could have prioritized the safety of himself and his family. Also, at 69, he was not what we would outrightly call fit, so his family tried to talk him out of participating in the rescue activities.
Perhaps he would have truly stayed back, but then news got to him that one of the missing people at Ground Zero was the son of an old colleague. Upon hearing that information, Beckwith put on his old uniform and helmet before proceeding out of the door.
Recollecting what happened that day, Beckwith mentioned during an interview that he joined the other rescue workers at the North Tower. They were trying to rescue people from under the rubble and create air pockets for those still stuck pending their evacuation.
Then, later in the day, news got to Beckwith that the POTUS would be visiting the disaster site that day. Around President Bush’s arrival, Beckwith climbed onto the wreckage of a firetruck for a better view. He was up there alone when a man who looked like a Secret Service agent approached the wreckage. He later learned that the man was President Bush’s deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove.
Rove simply asked Beckwith if the wreckage was safe to stand upon, to which the latter responded affirmatively. So, Rove told him that a VIP would arrive shortly, asked Beckwith to kindly help them unto the wreckage, and vacate his position afterward.
The VIP was President Bush. However, he did not allow Beckwith to go down from the wreckage when he started addressing the rescue workers. That was how Bob Beckwith made history.
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