Bob Beckwith, firefighter who stood with Bush after 9/11, dies at 91

Beckwith was considered "one of the heroes of 9/11 who stood tall for America" after coming out of retirement to assist recovery efforts.
Posted at 11:53 AM, Feb 06, 2024

Bob Beckwith, a former New York City firefighter who stood next to President George W. Bush as Bush delivered his historic bullhorn speech days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack, died on Sunday, the Uniformed Firefighters Association. 

Beckwith was 91 years old.

The moment with Bush became an iconic scene as the U.S. turned from mourning the terrorist attacks to retaliating against Al Qaeda in the Afghanistan War.

"Bob is one of the heroes of 9/11 who stood tall for America, New York City and all New Yorkers, he spent many hours searching for the members we lost on that fateful day in 2001," the Uniformed Firefighters Association said. 

Bush met the emergency responders at the site of the World Trade Centers three days after the attack. As Bush spoke, workers at Ground Zero yelled at Bush that they couldn't hear him. 

"I can hear you," Bush responded back. "I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."

Beckwith, who had retired after a 30-year career with the New York Fire Department, joined in the efforts to search for victims in the days following the attack. In February 2002, Beckwith presented Bush with the bullhorn, which is now on display at the George W. Bush Library. 

"I met Bob on the heap of a burnt-out fire engine in New York," Bush said in 2002 when Beckwith visited him in the Oval Office. "And he didn't know and I didn't know that we were going to meet on that day…I was given a bullhorn, and it turned out to be one of those moments where I had a chance to speak to the world on behalf of the citizens of New York. And Bob was standing there by my side."

On Monday, Bush reacted to Beckwith's passing. 

"Laura and I are saddened by the passing of Bob Beckwith," Bush said. "On September 11, 2001, Bob was happily retired after more than 30 years of service with the New York City Fire Department. 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. 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."