Monday, June 20, 2011

The Legacy of Mark Bingham

This weekend we had the honor of attending a cocktail release party and very first showing of "With You: The Mark Bingham Story". For those of you who may not be familiar with who Mark Bingham is, he was one of the individuals believed responsible for storming the cockpit of flight 93 and bringing it down in an empty field rather than allow it to reach the destination that the Al-Qaida hijackers had intended. After the plane had been taken over, several of the passengers had cell phone conversations with loved ones on the ground. It was Marks Mother Alice who informed him that other planes had been used to destroy the world trade center and that they should do all they could to regain control of the plane....and so they fought back. Even though all aboard the flight were killed, countless more lives were saved due to their bravery.

Mark was among those who led the charge. So it was with no small surprise that the world also discovered that he was gay. It was a fact that many new programs would not mention. But even though it often got glossed over...it wasn't lost on those of us who share that trait with him. It made me proud to know that one of the people responsible for saving so many lives was also someone that most of the world would not expect. Pre or post 9/11 we just didn't talk about gay heroes. Yet beyond the title of "hero" it was Marks life and the man who he was...as much as his sacrifice...that made him remarkable.

 One of Marks very close friends and mentor states in the movie that the national experience of the events of 9/11 are not the same as the experience of those who lost someone on that day...they are just not the same. Yet this movie endeavored to share of piece of what it was to know Mark Bingham and to understand the impact he had on those around him. It was the sharing of that experience that made this movie so much more than a retelling of the events of Flight 93. People may have known that Mark was gay, they knew he was a hero...but they may not have known the man who lived, how his abiding love of his family, his friends, and his passion for rugby shaped his life...or the ripples that his passing continues to create.


Those ripples touch his family and friends most of all. On the night of the pre-release cocktail party, we were lucky enough to get a few moments with Alice Hoagland, Marks mom. She was an incredibly sweet person and I was struck by how hard all this had to be for her. She shared with us that she had not seen the movie before that moment and that she was learning so many things about her son that she did no know when they were happening. You see....Alice was a flight attendant and would often be away from home. This gave Mark and his friends lots of time to get into trouble...and film it. And film they did, several years of their lives together, the family moments, amatuer spy movies and music videos...and tons of pranks no parent would want to catch their kids doing.

One of Marks best friends, Todd Sarner is responsible for having saved the bulk of the videos that were used to make the film and also for pitching the idea for a movie about Mark to PBS producers. This movie was as intensely personal for Todd as it was for Marks mother and one of the things he mentioned is that "everyone kept trying to own Mark.". As someone who was so close to him, it must be incredibly hard to watch as this man that he simply knew as his friend  became something like a symbol, like many of those who died during that time, who's memories can sometimes be used as political footballs depending who's currently calling the play. Its is not uncommon for some politician to wrap themselves in a flag and then invoke the name of those who died as a way to justify what ever political agenda they may posses in the moment. I heard in Todds words a desire to remind people that this was his friend and from the bottom of his heart he wanted you to know him....beyond 9/11 hero...beyond gay rugby icon...as an incredible man who touched his life and countless others in immeasurable ways.

Our amatuer interview with Alice and Todd:


I remember when I heard the news that one of the men who had fought back on flight 93 had been gay, it didn't take away from the sense of sadness and tragedy...but I did feel a little surge of pride. No one ever talked about gay heroes and the extent of what the average American knew about the gay community was a handful of stereotypes they saw on t.v. None one expected that a gay person could have the courage of character to stand up in defense of others even when it could mean losing their own life and they certainly did not expect them to six and a half foot tall rugby players. Even I who should have known better, found myself caught off guard. He not only helped America redefine what "gay" was...he helped me do it as well.  So, in that sense, I too wanted to own a piece of who Mark was inside myself. His courage had helped change who I believed I was and who I could be. He reminded me that being gay is just another layer on top of everything else we already are...not something that can ever set limits on that.

Today Alice Hoagland is a busy lady. She continues to support fundraisers in her sons name. She supports Marks old team, the San Francisco Fog as their official team mom. She passes out the Bingham cup in the biennial rugby tournament named in honor of her son. She has spoken out about National and airline safety...and yes...she has spoken out for marriage equality too. All of these things she does because of who her son was. She is keeping him alive in her heart and sharing him with everyone with whom she comes into contact. She is an incredible and loving lady who has been placed on an incredible path because of her love for her son Mark.


And so the ripples continue to spread. On a personal level I guess that I could say that I would not be blogging to you were it not for Mark Bingham. It sounds ridiculous but it something similar was said to us by our good friend and epic videographer Sean Chapin. It was Marks influence that first encouraged Sean to pursue videography. Back then it was just taking video of the S.F. Fog rugby team. But that later became Seans springboard for making his parody of The National Organization for Marriages "Coming Storm video". It was that video that attracted our attention to Sean and encouraged my husband Jay to get out the camera on night to shoot our very first YouTube video. The rest, is history...

Mark Bingham changed the lives of so many people. The effects of that have not ceased reverberating through the world Through his life, he has truly launched a thousand ships. I just wish that one day I could be able to tell him thanks...

On the night we saw the movie, Marks Mom and the movie itself got a ten minute standing ovation...and they deserved every minute of it. "With You: The Mark Bingham Story" is headed to the L.A. gay lesbian film festival and after that it will be headed to Rhode Island. If any of my readers ever get the chance to watch this movie I recommend clearing your calender to go see it. It's an incredible experience and well worth the being seen crying in public like I did.

5 comments:

  1. I think there is a really good chance that we ALL will be able to thank him one day ....

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  2. Bryan
    Do u think it will make it to New Zealand??? I hope so I would love to watch it
    Bella

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  3. I hope so too Bella...otherwise I will promote it when its available for purchase somewhere.
    Bryan

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