On this, the 14th anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001, Simon Dunn writes for Attitude about one of the true heroes of the terrible day: Mark Bingham.
September 11th, 2001: my 14-year-old self sitting in science class shocked at the events unfolding in the United States. Little did I realise that the actions of one man on this day would have a profound impact on my life, and help shaping who I became in the years to follow. That man is Mark Bingham (pictured, right).
Mark Bingham was a passenger aboard United Airlines flight 93. Bingham is believed to have been one of the passengers who formed the plan to retake the control of the plane from the hijackers, leading the effort that resulted in the plane's crash into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and all of the passengers' deaths. They prevented the hijackers from reaching their intended destination - believed to be the White House - saving countless lives in the process. Bingham was survived by his parents, stepmother and his former partner of six years, Paul Holm.
Mark was also a key member of both the San Francisco Fog Rugby Club and Gotham Knights (New York). Fog was one of the first sports clubs in world to be classified as an 'inclusive team', meaning all players are welcome regardless of their sexuality, gender, race or HIV status. In an email to the San Francisco Fog team shortly after their acceptance into their local union, Mark wrote:
“We have the chance to be role models for other gay folks who wanted to play sports, but never felt good enough or strong enough. More importantly, we have the chance to show the other teams in the league that we are as good as they are. Good rugby players. Good partiers. Good sports. Good men.”
In his honor San Francisco Fog have since set up a biannual tournament for inclusive teams from throughout the world called the Bingham Cup. At the time of Mark Bingham’s tragic death, only six gay and inclusive rugby clubs existed worldwide, but today there are a totally of 56 clubs who fall under this banner and are part of IGR (International Gay Rugby).
Having taken place in 2014 in Sydney, Australia, the tournament is set to take place in 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee. My club, the Sydney Convicts, will defend their title as the Bingham Cup holders and hopefully take out a 3rd
That’s 56 teams full of gay men who play rugby just like me. Mark will never know that 14-year-old boy sitting in science class struggling with his sexuality and what his actions meant for a teenage boy passionate about rugby. He'll never know that he is part of the reason the club I play for, the Sydney Convicts are so successful. He'll never know he is part of the reason I am finally happy with myself as a gay man - getting back into the sport I love, rugby, and leading to my place on the Australian Bobsleigh team.
Mark's legacy will have ripples for generations of young gay men. Unfortunately, he’s not here to bear witness to the profound impact he has had on so many lives, but like so many, I want to say: We’re with you, Mark.
Words by SIMON DUNN
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