Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Life Remembered - Mark Bingham

Since 2006 Dale C. Roe has organized an effort called Project 2996 in order to remember the lives of those lost on a beautiful September morning in 2001. Thank you for stopping by and remembering Mark with me. And after you have read my tribute I invite and encourage you to visit other blogs and read their tributes to those lives stolen from us. A list of participants and a link to their blogs and webpages can be found here.
I am with you. I AM WITH YOU.  These are words that mean something to rugby players.  Mark's mother, Alice Hoagland explained what it means, "One guy has the ball and is charging forward trying to get a try and is paced on both sides by a fellow player, who is chanting ‘with you, with you’ to let him know where he is--To let him know that he’s not alone and he has friends in the fight.”  Mark Bingham was once such friend to all of us one dreadful and beautiful morning ten years ago. 

Mark Bingham was a larger than life kind of guy. He was constantly on the go as president of his own public relations firm traveling coast to coast. He loved his Jaegermister and Cosmopolitans. Mark was the guy that was loud, vibrant, and gregarious. He was the guy at the gathering that made you feel comfortable and not out of place. He was fiercely competitive and a protector of those he cared for. He saved his uncle from drowning, fought armed muggers, rescued a little girl from a busy street. He always took care of the underdog, the little guy, the guy that was picked on and teased. He was the guy that took care of you. If you met him, you were a friend for life. In July 2001,  Mark and a group of friends went to Pamplona to run with the bulls.  Mark wore the traditional white with red sashes. He was caught on the horns of a bull and was stomped upon. He took it in stride and would often show the hoof print on his leg.  

Mark Bingham attended Los Gatos High School and was a graduate of University of California, Berkeley where he was president of his fraternity. He played for Berkeley's rugby team and was a key member bringing home two national championships. 

It was on the field at the age of 16 where Mark showed the true grit of his being. At 6 ft. 5 in. and 220 lbs., he found his home, his love and his passion for rugby.  There is a clip of him as a teenager where he says with a big grin, "Give blood, play rugby."  As a kid, Mark was shy, awkward, sensitive and insecure. With his athletic ability and tenacity, rugby gave Mark the self confidence he needed to succeed in life.  As a rugby player, he was described as a guided missile, head down, going.  Rugby was not only a highly strategic game it was also very social--- after any game, you would find both teams in the local bar singing and quoting Shakespeare.  

With the confidence of his athletic prowess and his ability to make friends and his natural ability to lead others at the age of 21, in 1991 he came out to his mother and family and friends. Mark was not ashamed of his homosexuality, but he was worried others would think less of him.  To come out to jocks and his fraternity brothers showed his courage and sense of self.  This only made Mark more undefinable-- a rugby player, president of his fraternity, a Republican, gay----

Mark continued to play rugby after college.  He joined the San Francisco Fog - a gay rugby team.  He wrote the following email to his team mates when the Fog was accepted as a member of the Northern California Rugby Union:

When I started playing rugby at the age of 16, I always thought that my interest in other guys would be an anathema — completely repulsive to the guys on my team — and to the people I was knocking the shit out of on the other team. I loved the game, but KNEW I would need to keep my sexuality a secret forever. I feared total rejection.....
Now we’ve been accepted into the union and the road is going to get harder. We need to work harder. We need to get better. We have the chance to be role models for other gay folks who wanted to play sports, but never felt good enough or strong enough. More importantly, we have the chance to show the other teams in the league that we are as good as they are. Good rugby players. Good partiers. Good sports. Good men.
Gay men weren’t always wallflowers waiting on the sideline. We have the opportunity to let these other athletes know that gay men were around all along — on their little league teams, in their classes, being their friends.
This is a great opportunity to change a lot of people’s minds, and to reach a group that might never have had to know or hear about gay people.
Let’s go make some new friends ... and win a few games.
U.S. Senator John McCain eulogized Mark Bingham on September 17, 2001: 
"Mark Bingham was one of the men on United Airlines Flight 93 who rushed the hijackers and perished in the crash in southwestern Pennsylvania. He was a log cabin republican and a very active supporter of McCain's run for president. [...] 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. "In the Gospel of John it is written "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Such was the love that Mark and his comrades possessed, as they laid down their lives for others. A love so sublime that only God's love surpasses it. "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 will try very hard, very hard, to discharge my public duties in a manner that honors their memory. All public servants are now solemnly obliged to do all we can to help this great nation remain worthy of the sacrifice of New York City firefighters, police officers, emergency medical people, and worthy of the sacrifice of the brave passengers on Flight 93. "No American living today will ever forget what happened on September 11, 2001. That day was the moment when the hinge of history swung toward a new era not only in the affairs of this nation, but in the affairs of all humanity. The opening chapter of this new history is tinged with great sadness and uncertainty. But as we begin please take strength from the example of the American we honor today, and those who perished to save others in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. The days ahead will be difficult, and we will know more loss and sorrow. But we will prevail. We will prevail. "Pay no heed to the voices of the poor, misguided souls, in this country and overseas, who claim that America brought these atrocities on herself. They are deluded, and their hearts are cramped by hatred and fear. Our respect for Man's God-given rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness assures us of victory even as it made us a target for the enemies of freedom who mistake hate and depravity for power. The losses we have suffered are grave, and must not be forgotten. But we should all take pride and unyielding resolve from the knowledge that we were attacked because we were good, and good we will remain as we vanquish the evil that preys upon us. "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 11th 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. "America will overcome these atrocities. We will prevail over our enemies. We will right this terrible injustice. And when we do, let us claim it as a tribute to our liberty, and to Mark Bingham and all those who died to defend it. "To all of you who loved Mark, and were loved by him, he will never be so far from you that you cannot feel his love. As our faith informs us, you will see him again, when our loving God reunites us all with the loved ones who preceded us. Take care of each other until then, as he would want you to. May God bless Mark. And may God bless us all.  
So over the past few days, I have read countless articles about this man and find myself profoundly sad that his life was cut short and yet on the other hand profoundly relieved he was one of the heroes of United Flight 93. He along with Tom Burnett, Jeremy Glick and Todd Beamer made a decision-- an unthinkable decision that was right and good-- A decision no man should ever have to make. Mark called his aunt and mom, to say goodbye -to say I love you. Mark did what he had to do. This man that was described as a guided missile and as a huge Labrador Retriever bounding around through life, lived his last moments of  his precious life the way he had lived every single preceding moment--- always looking out for us.... all of us... the little guy...  May God keep him close and give comfort to those he left behind.

Here are two videos that I found moving:

"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother." - Henry V, William Shakespeare

With you, Mark Bingham
1970 - 2001

Thank you for stopping by and remembering Mark with me, if you have time, please visit my remembrances for other lost souls from United Flight 93.

2012: I remember Louis J. Nacke II
2011: I remember Jeremy Glick.
2011: I remember Mark Bingham.
2010: I remember Don and Jean Peterson.
2009: I remember Hilda Marcin.
2008: I remember Toshiya Kuge.
2007: I remember Tom Burnett.
2007: I remember Deora Bodley.
2006: I remember Marion Britton.

United Flight 93 & the Passengers & Crew Who Fought Back: Among the Heroes by Jere Longman
Senator McCain's eulogy for Mark in it's entirety -
quotes taken from family and loved ones:  Alice Hoagland, Matt Hall, Paul Holm, Amanda Mark, and Dave Kupiecki.

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