9/11 firefighter Bob Beckwith who stood next to Bush in famous images dies

Bob Beckwith was working in the smouldering ruins of the World Trade Center when George W Bush visited the site.

Bob Beckwith was captured in some of the most iconic photos taken in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks [File: Doug Mills/AP]

A retired New York City firefighter who rose to fame after being photographed next to then-President George W Bush in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks has died at the age of 91.

Bob Beckwith was working in the smouldering ruins of the World Trade Center three days after the attacks when Bush visited the site and gave a speech promising to hold the perpetrators responsible.

“I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked down these buildings will hear all of us soon,” Bush said in remarks to rescuers scouring for survivors.

Pictures of Bush speaking into a megaphone with his arm around Beckwith became some of the most well-known images symbolising the grief and resolve of Americans in the days after hijackers crashed planes into the Twin Towers.

“Bob Beckwith was one of many retired FDNY [Fire Department of New York] members who responded to the World Trade Center site in the days and months following September 11 to aid in rescue and recovery as a testament to their devotion to their FDNY family,” Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said in a statement on Monday.

“His iconic picture with President Bush captured a moment that was both inspiring and heartbreaking. We are grateful to his service to our city and our nation, and we join his family and friends in mourning his loss.”

Bush on Monday paid tribute to Beckwith, saying he had been privileged to have stayed in touch with the “decent, humble man” over the years.

“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,” Bush said in a statement posted on X.

Born in 1932, Beckwith had a nearly 30-year career as a New York City firefighter.

Despite retiring in 1994, he joined many other current and former first responders to help search for survivors in the hours and days after the attacks.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies