Rugby player Mark Bingham saved countless lives by helping stop United Flight 93 from reaching its target. However, it’s not the lives he saved but those he impacted since that have defined his legacy.
Flight 93 was the only one of the four hijacked planes on 9/11 that failed to hit its intended target, presumably the U.S. Capitol.
Several passengers, including Bingham, who uttered what has become an American rallying cry — “let’s roll” — stormed the cockpit, using the beverage cart as a battering ram. One of the last passenger voices on the recording says something like “pull it up.”
Instead, the terrorists pitched the plane into a Pennsylvania field.
All 44 people lost their lives aboard Flight 93, but their actions likely saved hundreds more – and Bingham is remembered as one of the many heroes of 9/11.
When he graduated, Bingham came out as gay to his family and friends. He began a successful public relations firm known as The Bingham Group and joined a rugby club known as The San Francisco Fog. Founded in 2000, it was the first all-gay, inclusive rugby club on the West Coast.
His mother, Alice Hoagland, a former United Airlines flight attendant, has championed LGBT rights and the issue of airline safety in the years since her son’s death before she passed away in 2019.
The Bingham Cup, a biennial international rugby union competition predominantly for gay and bisexual men, was established in 2002 in his memory.
“It’s been a shining light for people around the world,” recounted the San Francisco Fog’s coach Dany Samreth.
For some players, the Bingham Cup has done the impossible – and provided a space where they, as members of the LGBTQ+ community, felt welcome in sport for the first time.
Tom Crotty, a member of the Sydney Convicts team that won the Bingham Cup in Amsterdam in 2018, said: “We were all in the shed before that final game, and our coach asked us to take a moment to reflect on why we were there playing rugby.
“And one by one, we went round and talked about our personal experience, including some of the boys who were straight about why they’d personally decided to fight side by side with us, and that was really overwhelming and a massive motivating force.
“The values and legacy of the Bingham Cup are interwoven into the fabric of our club – but I don’t think it’s until you go to your first one that you really understand it.
“It’s an amazing feeling to go to an international event and be bound to these people from all across the globe, not only by your love for the sport, but also by who you are.”
It’s a fitting tribute to Mark Bingham, Alice Hoagland, and the values they held so dear.