Entrepreneur, rugby player, gay man: Mark Bingham was known to friends, family and co-workers as a lot of things in his short life. Today, he’s remembered across the globe as a gay hero of 9/11.
Bingham was one of those who decided to put their lives on the line to prevent hijacked United Flight 93 from colliding with its intended target, which many believe was either the Capitol Building or the White House in Washington, D.C.
The 31-year-old Bingham and fellow passengers Todd Beamer, Tom Burnett and Jeremy Glick assessed the situation and decided to storm the cockpit of the plane, where they hoped to retake control of the flight or at least prevent it from being used as a missile.
The world now knows that because they took action, the plane roared from the sky into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where ceremonies were held today to commemorate their loss and once again pay tribute to their courage.
Mark Bingham is remembered with particular fondness by the gay community, not only because of his selfless act of bravery in the face of odds that were at best dire. He exemplifies the gay man so many aspire to be: compassionate, wise, clever, and imposing enough to make a difference in a physical altercation.
Having broken bones as a high school soccer player, he was no stranger to pain. Later, he’d push through an endless string of injuries to help take the University of California Berkeley to two national championships.
Those who knew him well readily tell the curious that Mark was an intense fellow who actually relished strategies for plowing through a field of adversaries — although during a match, he was just as likely to pick someone up, pat him on the back and tell him he’s doing a great job.
By the end of the ’90s, Bingham was partnered and had opened his own high-tech PR agency, the Bingham Group. It was not a life someone would have been happy to walk away from. He could have done nothing and hoped for the best.
What he did do was call his Mom once United Airlines 93 was hijacked. “Hi Mom, this is Mark Bingham,” he said with atypical formality. “I just wanted to say I love you. I am on a flight from Newark to San Francisco, and there are three guys on board who’ve taken over the plane and they say they have a bomb.”
What we don’t know is what Mark, Todd, Tom and Jeremy did that saved hundreds of lives, only that the hijackers died without success, taking the passengers and crew of Flight 93 along with them.
A year after his death, a biennial international rugby union competition predominantly for gay and bisexual men, was established in his memory. The Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Tournament has since become known worldwide simply as The Bingham Cup.
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Last modified: September 11, 2019