On September 11th, 2001 the world stopped as the United States of America was under attack. As many Americans stood paralyzed in fear within their own homes and on the streets below, Mark Bingham and Jeremy Glick were two of 40 passengers aboard United Flight 93 when the hijacking occurred.
Mark Bingham, a native of Northern California, began his rugby career as a teen. His tenacity on the pitch made him stand out from the rest. Bingham was routinely selected to Northern California high school and age group representative sides.
His athleticism and academic prowess led him to the University of California, Berkeley, where he played second row and also donned the No. 8 jersey. He was a member of the Cal National Collegiate Championship teams in 1991 and 1992. Bingham played for the Olympic Club from 1993-1995. Most notably he founded and played for the San Francisco Fog in October 2000. With the Fog, he led the team to win the first ever International Gay Rugby Tournament in Washington, D.C. in June of 2001.
Mark is remembered as more than just a standout rugby player, but ultimately a consummate team player and friend.
“When he met someone new, his interest in them was genuine and irresistible. He lived for a hard-fought match and a good party with teammates and opponents where the respect was always mutual. He was open to every new experience and his enthusiasm was contagious. On the rugby pitch, it raised the level of play of the entire team, and I am certain that these qualities were a significant factor in the ultimate team endeavor that overcame the terrorists on that fateful day in September of 2001,” said former coach and friend, Dan Smith.\\
When terrorists seized United Flight 93, fellow ruggers Bingham and Glick teamed up and valiantly rushed the hijackers, forcing the plane down into an empty field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
“Teammates for less than an hour, Mark and Jeremy made the word “rugby” synonymous with the words “patriot” and “hero”. US Rugby should be proud. When Mark Bingham and Jeremy Glick found themselves at the center of a national crisis, they teamed up and stormed the cockpit of Flight 93. The rugby players on board were ready and took action,” said Cal’s Head Rugby Coach, Jack Clark.
As a result of Mark and Jeremy’s actions, they helped save the lives of countless individuals.
They both respectively received numerous honors for their act of heroism, including: the Arthur Ashe Courage Award by ESPN Sports in 2002; bestowed the Medal of Heroism, the highest civilian honor Given by the Sons of the American Revolution; and were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal along with the crew and passengers of United Flight 93.
Mark’s impact reverberates as not only an American hero, but also as an icon within the gay community. In honor of Mark, his San Francisco Fog teammates advocated for the International Gay Rugby Tournament to host its second tournament in San Francisco in 2002. The tournament was appropriately renamed the Bingham Cup and is played biennially.
“Mark was a lover of the game and a hero for all time who singularly inspired an enormous global embrace of rugby and inclusivity,” says nominator and fellow Cal alum Jean Strauss. And perhaps Senator and American hero John McCain said it best when he attended a memorial for Mark on the Berkeley campus: “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.”