Bob Beckwith, a retired firefighter who became part of an iconic image of American unity after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when he encountered the president amidst the rubble of ground zero, has passed away at the age of 91.

Barbara Beckwith, his wife, disclosed on Monday that Beckwith passed away on Sunday night while under hospice care, following a battle with cancer in recent years.

Sporting his retired firefighter helmet from Ladder Company 164 in Queens, the Long Island resident stood alongside President George W. Bush as he delivered an inspiring speech to exhausted responders three days after hijackers flew planes into the twin towers of the former World Trade Center, claiming the lives of 2,753 individuals.

Barbara Beckwith, speaking from their home in Baldwin, a suburb approximately 30 miles from Manhattan, stated on Monday via phone that her husband, Bob Beckwith, became famous simply due to fortuitous timing and circumstance.

At 69 years old and seven years into retirement following a 30-year career, Beckwith joined the scores of other current and former first responders in aiding search-and-rescue efforts in the aftermath of the attacks.

Recalling the event, Beckwith mentioned that he had only sought a good viewpoint to witness the president's survey of the destruction. However, Bush unexpectedly diverted and climbed aboard the crushed Engine Co. 76 truck where Beckwith was standing, as Beckwith recounted to the AP on the 10th anniversary of the attacks in 2011.

Barbara Beckwith recounted how her husband assisted the president in climbing onto the fire truck and was prepared to step down himself when Bush intervened, ensuring his place in history.

"The president asked him, 'Where are you going?' Barbara remembered. 'You're going to be right here with me.'"

Bush addressed the gathered firefighters, police officers, and others using a bullhorn, with his arm draped around Beckwith at one point.

"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," the president declared, as the crowd echoed chants of "USA! USA!"

This moment, immortalized in video and photographs by The Associated Press and other news agencies, became an enduring symbol of resilience following the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil. It even earned Beckwith a spot on the cover of Time magazine, a cherished keepsake proudly displayed in his home for years.

Beckwith's wake is scheduled for Friday, with his burial set for Saturday on Long Island, where he raised a family comprising six children, 10 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Barbara Beckwith mentioned that Bush, who stayed in touch with the family over the years and even reached out as Beckwith's health declined, was one of those who called on Monday morning to offer condolences.

In a statement, the former president expressed that Beckwith's courage embodied the defiant and resilient spirit of both New Yorkers and Americans in the aftermath of the attacks.

"When the terrorists struck, Bob geared up once again and, like numerous courageous first responders, hurried towards the danger to rescue and search for others," Bush penned on Monday. "I was honored to have Bob alongside me at Ground Zero just days later, and privileged to maintain contact with this patriot throughout the years."

New York City Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh described the iconic image as "both inspiring and heartbreaking," emphasizing that the endeavors of Beckwith and other former first responders were a "testament to their dedication" to the department.

"Bob is one of the heroes of 9/11 who stood tall for America, New York City, and all New Yorkers," the Uniformed Firefighters Association, a union representing NYC firefighters, posted on X, formerly Twitter, on Monday. "He dedicated numerous hours to searching for the members we lost on that fateful day in 2001."