Skip to comments.Moment Anything But Conventional (Firefighter Bush stood with at GZ)
Posted on 01/10/2003 4:44:24 PM PST by kathleenlisson
Moment Anything But Conventional
His wife, Barbara, didn't want him to drive to Ground Zero from Baldwin three days after the attack, nor did his children. "Dad," they said, "you're too old." But Bob Beckwith, then 69, put on his firefighter's helmet, talked his way past police and the National Guard and joined rescue workers looking for survivors.
By midafternoon, he found a damaged fire pumper and climbed on top. "Then this guy asked me if it was safe where I was standing. 'Sure,' I told him." "Jump up and down for me," the man said, seeking proof of Beckwith's statement. "I did, and then he said to wait; someone else is coming here in about five minutes," Beckwith said. It was President George W. Bush. "Give me a hand up," the president asked Beckwith, who helped Bush onto the wreckage and then began to leave. "No, no, you stay here with me," Bush commanded. Someone handed Bush a tinny bullhorn and a small American flag. He waved the flag and talked into the bullhorn, looking out at an emotional, cheering crowd amid what he called a "living nightmare." "Can't hear you," someone in the crowd shouted. "I can hear you," Bush shouted back. "The rest of the world hears you. And the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon." Then Bush put his arm around Beckwith's shoulders. The retired firefighter, who spent most of his 30 years working with Ladder 117 in Astoria, said his head was spinning.
Beckwith was introduced to Karl Rove, the president's political adviser and the man who had asked Beckwith to jump up and down. When Beckwith met Gov. George Pataki, the governor picked him up off the ground and hugged him. "Don't hurt yourself," Beckwith recalls saying as the governor laughed. "He's pretty big," he said yesterday, retelling the events of a day he will never forget.
Nor will Bush, elected in a controversial decision by the United States Supreme Court. But on that day, Sept. 14, 2001, sometime around 5 p.m., Bush established himself as president, the way FDR did when he told a frightened nation it had "nothing to fear but fear itself." Bush aide Karen Hughes was beside herself with joy. An amazing moment, she thought. Eloquent, simple and against the perfect backdrop. Beckwith walked away, his head still spinning. "Who will believe what happened to me?" he said. "Me with the president."
His picture with the president appeared in newspapers everywhere and, a few days later, on the cover of Time Magazine. Then a letter arrived from the White House inviting him and his family to visit the president on Feb. 25. An aide told them the visit would be just a few minutes. Beckwith, his wife, their daughter and their two grandchildren visited Bush and his wife, Laura, for nearly an hour, touring the Oval Office and the Rose Garden. When Beckwith's granddaughter, Megan, 10, told Bush she missed school to visit him, he said, "Then we will have to write your teacher a letter." Bush wrote that Megan was unable to attend school because she was visiting the White House. He wrote a similar letter for Beckwith's grandson, Clancy, 15. Pictures were taken and the Beckwith family returned home, glowing with a story you will hear often next year when the Republicans stage their first-ever New York City convention. And now we come to the Democrats, who chose Boston, a nice little city. But as William Cunningham, the mayor's director of communications, said yesterday, "New York City is Cinemascope, the rest is eight-millimeter." In a word, the Democrats have handed over the mythology of 9/11, thanks to Terry McAuliffe, the party's chair and a close pal of former President Bill Clinton. "They haven't just given the Republicans a story, they have handed them a book," said Douglas Muzzio, an analyst at WABC-TV and Baruch College professor. Insiders say the city offered the Democrats a half-million dollars to spend on such incidentals as limousines, but McAuliffe, who lost the Senate for his party last fall, said he would consider coming to New York only if he got a guarantee that the GOP wouldn't get a similar offer. The city laughed, and all concerned got behind Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The GOP convention will more than likely highlight the moment that George W. Bush became presidential. He was missing in action the day the towers collapsed. He surfaced for an anxious America on Sept. 14, showing he had the heart and guts to lead. Standing beside Bob Beckwith, his arm around the firefighter's shoulders, smoke rising from the rubble of the fallen buildings, the nation and Beckwith weren't disappointed. "I think he's a great man," Beckwith said yesterday morning.
(Excerpt) Read more at newsday.com ...
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