Remembering the life and sacrifice of Mark Bingham

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Cal Rugby’s Mark Bingham and his late mother, Alice, embrace.


9/11 We Honor Mark Bingham: Golden Bear and American Hero

BERKELEY- On the solemn anniversary of 9/11, we remember the ultimate sacrifice former California rugby player Mark Bingham made aboard United Airlines Flight 93.

Twenty-one years ago, chaos and great sadness erupted in the United States when terrorists carried out attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in the nation’s capital. As the horrors of the morning’s events unfolded, a fourth hijacked plane emerged as another threat to the lives and safety of countless people at the United States Capitol. Four American hero passengers on that flight faced the threat head-on as they hatched a plan to get back on the plane. After a struggle with the terrorists in the cockpit, they diverted the plane to an open field in Pennsylvania where it crashed and crushed the threat to the Capitol building and the lives of hundreds of people in Washington DC. One of these heroes was Bingham.

Mark Bingham Cal Rugby
Mark Bingham in his playing years.

Bingham was a member of Cal’s 1991 National Rugby Championship team and a varsity letter winner. He graduated from college in 1993, earning a bachelor’s degree in social sciences with a major in international relations. The 6-foot-4 backrower was a constant force on the court and a beloved member of the Berkeley community off it.

Bingham’s memory has been honored in many ways since his heroic efforts on September 11, 2001. Most recently, the US Rugby Foundation awarded him and his fellow University of Rochester rough and Flight 93 passenger, Jeremy Glick, the Chairman’s Award in 2021. He was also posthumously awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2002 ESPYs. A biennial rugby tournament called the Bingham Cup is named in his honor and is considered the Rugby World Championship gay and inclusive, of which Bingham was an advocate. Now the largest amateur rugby tournament in the world, it brings together 148 teams from 20 countries.

The Cal community also honors Bingham’s memory each year. Former Cal Rugby alumnus Stuart Shiff and his wife, Josie, recently established the “Mark Bingham Rugby Back Row Endowment”. The University also established an annual award called the “Mark Bingham Award for Excellence in Achievement” which is presented to an undergraduate student at the Cal Alumni Association’s Charter Gala each spring. Framed and displayed at the Doc Hudson Fieldhouse on campus is a charcoal print of Bingham’s name that is engraved in the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York.

This year, members of the current Cal rugby team attended an event hosted by the UC Berkeley Army ROTC program to remember and honor Bingham on the anniversary of 9/11. Current Accessory Michael Puckett was a coordinator for the event, which was a walk through campus and the Berkeley Fire Trails.

 

Ray Lehner speaks at a 9/11 memorial event
Former Cal Rugby Player and 2022 Cal Athletic Hall of Famer
inductee Ray Lehner speaks at the memorial event
hosted by UC Berkeley Army ROTC.

Members of Cal rugby participated in the memorial event, and former Bingham teammate and 2022 Cal Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Ray Lehner was also a speaker. He spoke about his relationship with Bingham and his fond memories as a teammate and dear friend.

“Mark was a tall, lanky, square-shouldered, sometimes lockable fullback,” Lehner said. “He was a great teammate and a really great guy… Mark and I would stick our ears together – he always stuck my ears and I stuck his. It was the pre-match ritual that we had.”

Lehner also shared his memories of Bingham off the pitch: “Off the pitch, he was just a lovely guy.”

Today, and every day, we remember and honor Bingham’s life and heroism.

“It’s always going to be an important but hard day to remember,” Cal head coach Jack Clark said. “We are able to continue today thanks to the sacrifice and heroism of individuals like Mark. We will always be proud of him.”


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