From the archives: ‘A Permanent Footprint: Mark Bingham’s Mother Takes Action With the Strength of His Memory’

This article was originally published in the Sept. 11, 2003, issue of The Daily Californian. This archival article also makes several references using the term homosexual. The Daily Cal has since changed its style to use the more preferred term gay.

By Wendy Lee

Daily Cal Staff Writer

Two years to the day that UC Berkeley alumnus Mark Bingham died on terrorist-hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, his mother continues to scrape open America’s Sept. 11, 2001 scars.

She’s angry, resistant of healing and instead of weeping, she’s outspoken.

She ended her job as a flight attendant in July, after becoming a vocal critic of airline safety. Now, she answers media calls full-time, fielding questions about topics from aviation safety to her son’s death.

Her voice remains warm, sometimes even cheerful when she refers to “Mark Bingham.” But when the conversation turns to “her son,” Alice Hoglan’s voice breaks as she tries to maintain her composure.

“I’m never going to be the same. I do not want to heal,” Hoglan said in a telephone interview. “I want to go to my death tortured by the events of September 11.”

Her son, who died at age 31, was a public relations executive, and now, Hoglan is determined to champion his memory.

First on her list: aviation security.

Hoglan has spoken to several media outlets as a prominent critic on airline security, and as a United Airlines flight attendant until July, pushed her own airline to increase security measures. She raised hackles with management, and left after being advised by her union she’d be able to speak more freely on the subject if she left her job.

She wants airlines to institute routine cross-checking of passenger lists with known terrorists, screen workers who have access to the aircraft on the ground and create bomb-resistant cargo holds. These solutions, she said, could have prevented her son’s death.

Hoglan also wants to promote her son as a gay American hero, and that she’s proud of that fact. Hoglan is calling for giving homosexuals the same rights heterosexuals take for granted.

“(Mark) took being gay very matter of factly,” Hoglan said. “He took life in stride through all of it.”

Bingham’s heroic death struck a chord at UC Berkeley, where he was known as an outrageous fraternity brother, aggressive rugby player and, above all else, enthusiastic Cal football fan. When the mascot of the Wisconsin Badgers maddeningly waved its posterior to Cal fans with each winning point, Bingham shouted out “kick the badger’s ass!” promptly chasing the badger all the way to the center of Memorial Stadium. He’s also tackled the Stanford Tree.

Bingham wasn’t much afraid of anything. In July 2001, Bingham and his drunken buddies weren’t satisfied when they escaped being gored while running with the bulls in Pamplona. Persistent, Bingham went on a second run the next day.

He was stomped on by a bull, “grand and glorious,” on his right thigh and smeared with manure, Hoglan said.

He wasn’t afraid of danger. In San Francisco, robbers tried to mug Bingham and his friend as they came out of a restaurant. Bingham wrestled over the robber’s gun, and earned a black eye.

But his mother was often the last to know of his antics — even when the terrorists were murdering passengers before Bingham’s eyes.

“He was shielding his mom from the awful truth,” said Hoglan, who received the call at 6:44 a.m. “He didn’t tell me he was about to die, what he said to me was ‘Mom, this is Mark Bingham. I want to tell you that I love you.’ ”

The plane is being hijacked by three men who say they have a bomb, he told his mother.

Minutes later, the line cut out. As the plane spiraled down, some have credited Bingham for leading a takeover against the terrorists on the plane, causing it to miss its intended target and crash into an abandoned strip mine field in Pennsylvania.

Today, Hoglan will visit the site of the crash, a tradition she has kept up.

Despite her anger and unwillingness to heal, she has forgiven the terrorists who killed her son.

“We are fundamentally brothers and sisters. It is really love that will heal our wounds,” Hoglan said. “While I hate what they did, I acknowledge we share a common god and a common humanity.”

It is her hope all Americans donate blood and volunteer their time on Sept. 11 in commemoration of the large amount of outreach and patriotism that happened that day.

When she thinks back to that day, she wishes she was on that plane instead of her son.

Meanwhile, she waits until she can one day reunite with her son.

“I hope to see him again,” Hoglan said. “I hope he is with us. I have a small little seed of faith, that’s about all I got. I don’t know if there is life after death, but I hope to see my son.”