Cal Bears Release
20 years ago, the nation collectively stood still in horror as it watched the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. But as the chaos unfolded, it became clear that a fourth plane had been hijacked and was aimed at the U.S. Capitol Building. After a struggle unfolded with the terrorists in the cockpit, four American heroes managed to divert the plane which crashed into an open field in Pennsylvania, ultimately saving countless lives in the process. One of those heroes was Mark Bingham, a member of the 1991 Cal rugby national championship team and a 1993 recipient of a bachelor’s degree in social sciences with an emphasis in international relations.
“Many of us will never forget the awful shock and immediate grief of 9/11,” head coach Jack Clark said. “As sorrowful as these attacks still are, there is perspective. In all that cruelty there were heroes. Our Mark Bingham is one of those heroes. We are forever thankful of Mark and so dearly proud of him.”
In the 20 years since the attacks, Bingham has been honored a number of times, including most recently when the U.S. Rugby Foundation awarded both Bingham and Jeremy Glick with the Chairman’s Award this past year. Glick, a former captain at the University of Rochester and national judo champion, was also on board Flight 93 and was likely right by Mark’s side.
Bingham’s memory has been immortalized in many other ways, including a recent endowment entitled the “Mark Bingham Rugby Back Row Endowment,” founded by Cal rugby alumnus Stuart Shiff and his wife Josie. Furthermore, he was a co-recipient of the Arthur Ashe Courage Award, posthumously given at the 2002 ESPYs. He also continues to be honored annually by the University through the California Alumni Association, which recognizes a young graduate with the Mark Bingham Award for Excellence in Achievement at its Charter Gala each spring. Bingham, and the rest of the plane’s crew and passengers, are remembered at the Flight 93 National Memorial in Stoystown, Pennsylvania (eight miles outside of Shanksville the original memorial) and in New York City, where their names are etched at the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. A charcoal impression of Bingham’s name from the memorial is framed in the Doc Hudson Fieldhouse on campus at Cal. Furthermore, The Bingham Cup, a rugby tournament founded in 2002, is held in his honor and is held every other year. It will next be hosted in Ottawa, Canada in August 2022.
At a memorial service in Berkeley 11 days after the attacks, in reference to the possibility that the hijackers intended for Flight 93 to strike the U.S. Capitol, the late Senator John McCain said, “I may very well owe my life to Mark.”
McCain went on to say: “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 Sept. 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.”
Although this weekend marks the grim 20-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Cal rugby continues to honor the memory of Mark Bingham, a California rugby man and American hero who sacrificed his life to save thousands of others.