Mark Bingham is more than a “gay” hero for his bravery but he’s a gay icon nonetheless.
September 11, 2001, shock America and the world to its core when planes used as weapons struck one of our country’s most iconic landmarks, the World Trade Center. Everyone stared glued to the television screen in horror as every channel reported the live footage of the real-time chaos happening in the New York City.
The horrific actions brought upon our great nation because of the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda was a moment in our history that we will never forget. But it was also a moment in our history that we all collectively came together as proud Americans to stand as one for all to see us as a united front.
Man, woman, straight, and gay, we all clung to one another as an unbreakable support system. The courageous first responders and normal civilians did not see the light of discrimination in those crucial moments, we were all just human, which subsequentially in a tragic situation helped erode the widely held stereotype that gay men are weak by nature.
It’s all thanks to a brave gay man named Mark Bingham who stood courageously during a moment when we Americans needed him most. Other than the two planes that torpedo into the World Trade Center, two other planes were weaponized as well in route to their targets, the Pentagon and Washington D.C.
The Pentagon building’s westside suffered some damage but the plane bound to Washington D.C. never made it to its respective target thanks to four heroic individuals. When the news came out of who the four brave gentlemen were (Todd Beamer, Tom Burnett, Jeremy Glick) Bingham name was among the list.
The four men decided to jump into action and led the effort in taking the plane back from the hijackers. It was a bittersweet tale of human lives lost but many more saved when the plane crashed before hitting its intended target, either the U.S. Capitol Building or the White House.
What stemmed from the tale was more than just four brave men that heroically risked their lives for the greater good. What also came from the heroic story was the unstereotypical life of Bingham. A gay man who just so happen to be a man’s man who also dated men.
It’s not an uncommon notion for our community but for a lot of people at the time this was an eye-opener — proof, indication that all gay men aren’t feminine. That wasn’t just because the 6.4″ 225 lbs Bingham bravely gave his life for others, it was also because as his story was revealed the word got that he was an avid sports guy who enjoyed playing rugby and was a fraternity alum.
On September 11, 2001, Bingham almost missed his flight as he headed to San Francisco for his fraternity brother’s wedding. But the gay-inclusive rugby player of the San Francisco Fog RFC made it in the nick of time as the last passenger to board the aircraft United Airlines Flight 93. That would be the California native’s last day alive.
But his legacy lives on etched in stone at the National September 11 Memorial’s South Pool Panel S-67. His legacy also lives on in gay history as one of many men that have helped to erode the notion that gay men are weak or feminine.
In loving memory to all the lost lives, their loved ones, and the brave individuals that stood strong during one of our nations most tragic occurrences 9/11.