In Memoriam: Mark Bingham (1970 – September 11, 2001)

9.11.2011

By Joe Thompson

Mark Bingham was last to board flight UA93 at New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport. According to reports, the weather was clear, and the shallow blue sky probably looked pale through glass windows. It could have been called a perfect day.

As UA93 sped down runway four for takeoff, moments later two planes over New York City would fly into the twin towers and one other would crash into the Pentagon Building in Washington, DC. As the story goes, at that moment everything changed.

Then at 10:03 EST this plane, flight UA93— crashed into a field outside Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, 150 miles shy of its two possible targets: The White House or the United States Capitol. All passengers on board, including the four al-Qaeda hijackers, were killed but only after a brave group deflected the course of the plane by fighting back. One of them was Mark Bingham.

Bingham was many things: gay, a successful business owner, and a Golden Bear who helped earn UC Berkeley’s rugby team national titles in 1991 and 1993.

Gay Bears, The Hidden History of the Berkeley Campus reports: “He remained a life-long Bear Backer, a fanatic sports enthusiast, a devoted alumnus, and a proud gay man. On 22 September 2001 a memorial service was held in Wheeler Auditorium, at which his family and friends spoke of his irrepressible spirit and his fierce loyalty to his country, his team and his university. U.S. Senator John McCain, whom Bingham had backed as a Presidential candidate, spoke to the mourners:

I love my country, and I take pride in serving her. But I cannot say that I love her more or as well as Mark Bingham did, or the other heroes on United Flight 93 who gave their lives to prevent our enemies from inflicting an even greater injury on our country. It has been my fate to witness great courage and sacrifice for America’s sake, but none greater than the selfless sacrifice of Mark Bingham and those good men who grasped the gravity of the moment, understood the threat, and decided to fight back at the cost of their lives....

It is now believed that the terrorists on Flight 93 intended to crash the airplane into the United States Capitol where I work, the great house of democracy where I was that day. It is very possible that I would have been in the building, with a great many other people, when that fateful, terrible moment occurred, and a beautiful symbol of our freedom was destroyed along with hundreds if not thousands of lives. I may very well owe my life to Mark and the others who summoned the enormous courage and love necessary to deny those depraved, hateful men their terrible triumph. Such a debt you incur for life....

I never knew Mark Bingham. But I wish I had. I know he was a good son and friend, a good rugby player, a good American, and an extraordinary human being. He supported me, and his support now ranks among the greatest honors of my life. I wish I had known before September 11 just how great an honor his trust in me was. I wish I could have thanked him for it more profusely than time and circumstances allowed. But I know it now. And I thank him with the only means I possess, by being as good an American as he was.

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