Thursday, October 20, 2011

Gay 9/11 Hero Mark Bingham Remembered: An Audacious Gay Jock Became a Hero

With the ten-year commemoration of one the most horrible tragedies in American history being marked on Sept. 11, 2011, a remarkable gay hero is also being honored. Mark Bingham was a passionate San Francisco rugby player and a charming public relations executive who found himself on hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 over the state of Pennsylvania. He led three other men into the cockpit to prevent the plane being used to attack a target in Washington, D.C. His cell phone conversation with his mother Alice Hoagland, the flight data recordings, and the calls of other passengers confirm that Bingham rose to the occasion. He had wrested a gun away from a criminal who was threatening his boyfriend on the street, and he used his 6'-4", 220-pound physique to play a determined and aggressive rugby game. Shouts of “Let's roll!” are heard on the cell phones from the doomed flight, as it is heard when a rugby team charges at a game.

Bingham played for the San Francisco Fog rugby team, and they are well known as formidable, but also as uninhibited and fun-loving. They barely blinked when emcee Donna Sachet cut off their jockstraps and they danced naked with their soccer balls at a Big Gay Fraternity House charity benefit in the Castro. The international gay rugby championship is named in Bingham’s honor, the gym at the Castro’s Eureka Valley Recreation Center features a large plaque honoring him, and his mother is adored for questioning any family’s separation from their children because of their sexual orientation.

"With You", a fascinating documentary film about Bingham, was screened to great acclaim at this year’s San Francisco Int'l LGBT Film Festival at the Castro Theatre. It was heart-rending to hear Bingham’s mother speak about her loss and to see multiple videos of Bingham with her, his boyfriends, his team, and his relatives. More than 1,200 people rose to their feet and applauded as Alice Hoagland walked down the aisle to ascend the stage.

Mark Bingham's mother Alice Hoagland on stage after the screening of "With You" at the Castro Theatre

The film’s message and the knowledge of Bingham’s actions have been a notable answering point to bigots who question the lives and morality of the LGBT community. Members of San Francisco’s congressional delegation and Senator John McCain have credited Bingham for possibly saving their lives. This journalist (and his extended family) is thankful because Flight 93 flew over his family’s farm 20 miles from the crash site when it was swarming with young relatives, and his father was at the U.S. Capitol that morning.

For more information on the Mark Bingham Foundation, visit markbingham.org.

1 comment:

Cristina C said...

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