Gay History 101: September 16, 2015

By Found5dollar (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Mark Bingham (May 22, 1970 – September 11, 2001) was an American public relations executive who founded his own company, the Bingham Group. During the September 11 attacks in 2001 he was a passenger on board United Airlines Flight 93. Bingham is believed to have been one of the passengers who, along with Todd Beamer, Tom Burnett, and Jeremy Glick, formed the plan to retake the plane from the hijackers, and led the effort that resulted in the crash of the plane into a field near Shanksville, Pa. Both for his heroic actions on United 93, as well as his athletic physique and masculine lifestyle, Bingham has been widely honored posthumously for having "smashed the gay stereotype mold” and opened the door to many others that came after him. A large athlete at 6 ft 4 in (190 cm) and 225 pounds (102 kg), Bingham also played for the gay-inclusive rugby union team San Francisco Fog RFC. Bingham played No. 8 in their first two friendly matches. He played in their first tournament, and taught his teammates his favorite rugby songs.

United Flight 93 was scheduled to depart at 8 a.m., but the Boeing 757 did not leave until 42 minutes later due to runway traffic delays. Four minutes later, American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center's North Tower. 15 minutes later, at 9:03a.m., as United Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower, United 93 was climbing to cruising altitude, heading west over New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. At 9:25 am, Flight 93 was above eastern Ohio, and its pilot radioed Cleveland controllers to inquire about an alert that had been flashed on his cockpit computer screen to "beware of cockpit intrusion." Three minutes later, Cleveland controllers could hear screams over the cockpit's open microphone. Moments later, the hijackers, led by the Lebanese Ziad Samir Jarrah, took over the plane's controls, disengaged the autopilot, and told passengers: “Remain seated. We have a bomb on board." Bingham and the other passengers were herded into the back of the plane. The curtain between first class and second class had been drawn, at which point the pilot and co-pilot were seen lying dead on the floor just outside the curtain, their throats slashed. Within six minutes, the plane changed course and was heading for Washington D.C. Several of the passengers made phone calls to loved ones, who informed them about the two planes that had crashed into the World Trade Center. Bingham phoned his mother, reporting that his plane had been hijacked and relaying his love for her. After the hijackers veered the plane sharply south, the passengers decided to act. Bingham, formed a plan to take the plane back from the hijackers. They were joined by other passengers, along with flight attendants Sandra Bradshaw and Cee Ross-Lyles, in discussing their options and voting on a course of action, ultimately deciding to storm the cockpit and take over the plane. Todd Beamer's last audible words were "Are you guys ready? Let's roll."

According to the 9/11 Commission Report, after the plane's voice data recorder was recovered, it revealed pounding and crashing sounds against the cockpit door and shouts and screams in English. "Let's get them!" a passenger cries. A hijacker shouts, ”Allah akbar” ("God is great"). Jarrah repeatedly pitched the plane to knock passengers off their feet, but the passengers apparently managed to invade the cockpit, where one was heard shouting, "In the cockpit. If we don't, we'll die." At 10:02 am, a hijacker orders, "Pull it down! Pull it down!" The 9/11 Commission later reported that the plane's control wheel was turned hard to the right, causing it to roll on its back and plow into an empty field in Shanksville, PA at 580 miles an hour, killing everyone on board. The plane was twenty minutes of flying time away from its suspected target, the White House or the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

U.S. Senators John McCain and Barbara Boxer honored Bingham on September 17, 2001, in a ceremony for San Francisco Bay area victims of the attacks, presenting a folded American flag to Paul Holm, his former partner of six years.The Bingham Cup, a biennial international rugby union competition predominantly for gay and bisexual men, was established in 2002 in his memory. Bingham was posthumously awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award in 2002. The Eureka Valley Recreation Center's Gymnasium in San Francisco was renamed the Mark Bingham Gymnasium in August 2002. Singer Melissa Etheridge dedicated the song "Tuesday Morning " in 2004 to his memory.

Beginning in 2005, the Mark Bingham Award for Excellence in Achievement has been awarded by the California Alumni Association of the University of California to a young alumnus or alumna at its annual Charter Gala.

At the National 9/11 Memorial, Bingham and other passengers from Flight 93 are memorialized at the South Pool, on Panel S-67, along with other passengers on Flight 93. At the Flight 93 National Memorial in Pennsylvania, Bingham's name is located on one of the 40 8-foot-tall panels of polished, 3-inch thick granite that comprise the Memorial's Wall of Names.

The 2012 feature-length documentary With You focuses on Bingham and the bond he had with his mother, Alice Hoagland, a former United Airlines flight attendant who, following his death, became a nationally known authority on airline safety and a champion of LGBT rights.


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