Bingham Remembered for ’Walking the Walk’

BERKELEY – Among the thousands of lives lost on the morning of September 11, 2001, was that of Mark Bingham, the former California rugby player and 1993 University graduate whose actions aboard United Flight 93 are believed to have prevented the plane from being used as a weapon of mass destruction in the nation’s capital.

Evidence suggests that instead of allowing the Boeing 757 to reach its intended target, Mark joined several fellow passengers to storm the cockpit and thwart their hijackers. The flight, which met its end in Shanksville, Pa., is memorialized in nearby Stonycreek Township and in New York City, where the names of passengers and crew are etched at the Sept. 11 Memorial. A charcoal impression of Mark’s etched name is framed in the Doc Hudson Fieldhouse on campus at Cal.

Bingham is also honored annually by the University through the California Alumni Association, which recognizes a young alumnus or alumna with the Mark Bingham Award for Excellence in Achievement at its Charter Gala each spring.

When Minh Dang ’06 MSW ’13 accepted the 2014 award at last spring’s gala, her speech celebrated Bingham’s heroism with words that seemed to echo the Cal rugby ethos. Ms. Dang said:

“While this award is given for excellence in achievement, I submit to you that this award is for excellence in public service and courageous loving. Mr. Bingham expressed true love when he thought about the impact his actions would have on others. Some may say that he committed a selfless act. I propose that his act was selfish in the best of ways. For Mr. Bingham, I imagine that his action was his way of living and, unfortunately, dying with integrity. To me, this is excellence in achievement: the achievement of living aligned with one's values, of walking the walk, so to speak. Mr. Bingham, if you can hear me, the story of your life helps me to continue to walk the walk.”

Jack Clark, who coached Bingham, a flanker, on the Golden Bears’ 1991 national collegiate championship team, offered similar praise for Mark and his fellow passengers.

“We define leadership as an ability, not a rank, the ability to make others around you better and more productive,” said Clark. “The full account of what transpired on that flight will never be known, but Mark appears to have changed its fate with the help of those around him.”

Bingham received his degree from Cal in social sciences with an emphasis in international relations and went on to become CEO of the Bingham Group, a public relations firm serving the high-tech industry. His mother, Alice Hoagland, has said of her son’s alma mater, “Mark loved Cal. ’Go Bears’ was his mantra. Mark wore the blue and gold rugby jersey proudly and played his heart out for his teammates.”

At a 2001 memorial service in Berkeley after the attacks, U.S. Senator John McCain said, “I may very well owe my life to Mark.” Sen. McCain continued:

“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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