100 Heroes: Mark Bingham

A gay man whose legacy continues to be celebrated by rugby teams around the world.

100 Heroes: Mark Bingham

September 11 of 2001 was a dark day for the world. The attacks against the US on that date killed 2,996 people, and injured over 6,000. The events of that day significantly influenced what happened next in geo-politics, and the attacks remain a deep scar on the American psyche.

One of the people killed on that day was Mark Bingham.

Mark Bingham was one of the 44 people that was killed when United Airlines Flight 93 crashed on 11 September 2001.

United Airlines Flight 93

United Airlines Flight 93 was a domestic scheduled passenger flight that was hijacked by four al-Qaeda terrorists on board, as part of the September 11 attacks.

The flight was United Airlines’ daily scheduled morning flight from Newark International Airport in New Jersey to San Francisco International Airport in California.

The hijackers stormed the aircraft’s cockpit 46 minutes after takeoff. The pilot and first officer took measures, such as de-activating the autopilot, to hinder the hijackers. Ziad Jarrah, who had trained as a pilot, took control of the aircraft and diverted it back toward the east coast, in the direction of Washington, D.C. Subsequent investigations confirmed that the intended target was the Capitol Building.

After the hijackers took control of the plane, several passengers and flight attendants learned from phone calls that suicide attacks had already been made by hijacked airliners on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. Passengers on the flight attempted to regain control of the aircraft from the hijackers. During the struggle, the plane crashed into a field to the northwest of Washington, D.C.

Along with Todd Beamer, Tom Burnett, and Jeremy Glick, Mark Bingham led the effort that resulted in the crash of the plane, ensuring that United Airlines Flight 93 was the only aircraft taken that day that did not reach its hijackers’ intended target.

The life of Mark Bingham

Mark Bingham was born in Florida on 22 May 1970. He grew up in California, where he was captain of his school’s rugby team.

As an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, Bingham played on national-championship-winning rugby teams in the early 1990s. He also joined the Chi Psi fraternity, eventually becoming its president. Upon graduation at the age of twenty-one, Bingham came out as gay to his family and friends.

With his college rugby days behind him, in October 2000, Bingham helped to establish the San Francisco Fog  -  a gay rugby team.

With his public relations firm opening a satellite office in New York City, Bingham also played a key role in establishing the Gotham Knights  –  a gay rugby team for New York.

Mark Bingham was 31 at the time of his death.

The legacy of Mark Bingham

In 2002, the San Francisco Fog established The Bingham Cup to honour the memory of Mark Bingham.

The Bingham Cup is now a biennial tournament that brings together gay rugby teams from around the world.

What’s the history of the Bingham Cup?

Bingham Cup tournaments have so far been held in:

  • 2002 San Francisco, USA
  • 2004 London, UK
  • 2006 New York, USA
  • 2008 Dublin, Ireland
  • 2010 Minneapolis, USA
  • 2012 Manchester, UK
  • 2014 Sydney, Australia
  • 2016 Nashville, USA
  • 2018 Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • 2020 - event cancelled
  • 2022 - Ottawa, Canada
  • 2024 - Rome, Italy

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