American Icon Passes Away at 91

( – Retired firefighter Bob Beckwith, who became famous for appearing in an iconic photograph with President George W. Bush atop a fire engine at Ground Zero just days after the September 11 attacks, died from cancer-related to his time at Ground Zero, his family announced Monday, February 5.

Beckwith’s grandson, Matthew Beckwith, acting as the family spokesperson, announced that his grandfather succumbed to melanoma after a long battle. The cancer, initially diagnosed as skin cancer, had spread to his lungs and brain.

The family remembered Bob’s lifelong commitment to service, highlighting his enlistment in the Navy during the Korean War and his over 30-year career as an FDNY firefighter. They emphasized the pivotal role his iconic moment with President Bush at Ground Zero played in uniting the nation during its darkest hour, solidifying him as a symbol for first responders nationwide.

According to Matthew, former President Bush — who had kept in touch with Beckwith over the years — personally called Beckwith’s widow to offer his condolences.

A Baldwin, New York resident, Beckwith had retired seven years prior after dedicating three decades to the FDNY. When the World Trade Center fell on September 11, 2001, he didn’t hesitate to answer the call, rushing to Ground Zero to help out in the search and rescue efforts.

In a moment that made history, Beckwith, dressed in fire gear, found himself atop Engine Co. 76’s damaged fire truck amidst the rubble when senior presidential aide Karl Rove directed him to assist President Bush.

The resulting image of Beckwith and President Bush, framed against the devastation of Ground Zero, became a lasting symbol of resilience and unity after the tragedy.

During Bush’s presidency, Beckwith and his wife regularly attended the White House Christmas party, and the former president often sent personalized holiday cards showcasing his post-retirement talent as an artist.

FDNY Commissioner Laura Kavanagh lauded Beckwith’s service, highlighting his significant contributions to the city and nation during a critical time. She noted that his iconic photograph with President Bush captured a moment that was both inspiring and heartbreaking and expressed the department’s gratitude for his service and deep sorrow at his passing.

Former Long Island Rep. Peter King shared similar sentiments, calling Beckwith “an American icon” and extending condolences to his family. Surviving him are his wife, four children, ten grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

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