remembering 9/11

Bay Area Athlete on Board Flight 93 on 9/11 Remembered, Honored 20 Years Later

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It’s hard to believe it but it’s been 20 years since terrorists crashed planes into New York's twin towers, the Pentagon and another plane crashed into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

A memorial in honor of that flight was dedicated in December 2007, Union City was the first city to create one specifically for those who died in that crash.

The passengers and crew members are considered heros. One was a Bay Area executive, the other an athlete -- Mark Bingham.

“When I met him in eighth grade he was a shy guy, wasn’t overly sure of himself,” said Damon Billian, Bingham's friend.

That perception is all different now that the world knows Bingham as one of the hero’s on flight 93.

“He was one of those guys who was happy to help people in need,” said Billian.

That need became larger than life on Sept. 11, 2001 when a group of terrorists took over the plane.

Passengers fought the four hijackers and attempted to break into the cockpit to prevent a crash landing.

Instead, the plane crashed in a rural field. Bingham, a gay man, was one of the passengers, leading the charge to try and stop the terrorists.

“I’s nice to see everybody see a gay man isn’t a weak person or somebody not able to do great things,” said Billian.

Before that fateful day, Bingham was doing great things on the rugby field at high school in Los Gatos, and at U.C. Berkeley.

Dany Samreth met him in the early 2000s playing for the San Francisco Fog, a gay-friendly football club that mark helped form.

“He’s Draymond Green on the rugby pitch,” said Samreth.

Like Green, making things happen on and off the field and his greatest cheerleader was his mother Alice Hoagland. 

She died in December at the age of 71. This is the first 9/11 she isn’t talking about the contributions her son made.

Instead – leaving his friends to carry on his legacy.

“That one little act that him and other passengers did, they saved a lot of lives, let’s celebrate that, let’s not cry tears of sadness,” said Samreth.

And changed the perception of people and that they hope will be a part of his memory.

“I hope one day the gay hero part goes away even though I think it’s important,” said Billian. “If we can get to the point that he was a hero and that’s the end of the story.”

On Saturday, the Fog will play a rugby game in San Francisco to honor Bingham and all the other passengers and crew members who died tragically on Sept. 11.

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