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'The Rugby Player' Film Honors Memory of Los Gatan Mark Bingham on 9/11

Film's national screening tour and community outreach campaign seek to promote acceptance of gay children by their families.

On the eve of the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks of 2001, Los Gatos resident Alice Hoagland was already in New York for the premiere of the documentary, "The Rugby Player."


Scott Gracheff's documentary was to be shown today at NewFest: The NYC LGBT Film Festival, with screening at 5 p.m. Eastern at the Film Society of Lincoln Center – Walter Reade Theater.

The film honors the memory of her late son, the United Airlines Flight 93 hero Mark Bingham killed when his plane was hijacked by Al Qaeda terrorists that crashed in a field near Shanksville, PA.

Hoagland will also be part of the post screening Q & A with the filmmakers. 

"I'm here because they made this movie about my son," she said in a phone interview with Los Gatos Patch Tuesday.

According to the film's website, "The Rugby Player is an uplifting and stereotype-shattering documentary that tells the story of a mother, a son, and what it takes to be a hero.

"The film explores the lives of Mark Bingham, one of the passengers on United Flight 93 on 9/11, and his mother, Alice Hoagland, a former United Airlines flight attendant.

"The Rugby Player is a touching, funny and stirring portrait of how a son’s heroism can inspire a nation, and how a mother’s love can turn unfathomable loss into unshakable resolve."

With video footage captured by Bingham himself, "the film provides keen insights for the national debates on LGBT rights, marriage equality and gay athletes in sports," the website stated.

The film's national screening tour and community outreach campaign seek to promote acceptance of gay children by their families, create a bridge between LGBT and heterosexual audiences, support gay athletes and inspire gay youth and give them hope through the story of Bingham and his mom, according to the website.

Hoagland also said she's in New York City to visit with others "with whom I have the tragedy of 9/11 in common."

Said Hoagland of the Sept. 11 terror attacks: "New York was impacted much more so than Los Gatos was."

Bingham was 31 when he died and Hoagland recalled, once again, her son calling her at 6:44 a.m. using the plane's GTE airphone on that fateful morning to tell her that he loved her.

The call came to her brother Vaughn's home in Saratoga, where she was babysitting.

"He said, 'Mom, this is Mark Bingham. I just want to tell you that I love you. I'm on a flight from Newark to San Francisco and there are three guys on board who have taken over the plane and they say they have a bomb.' "

It's believed Bingham stormed into the plane's cockpit with the help of other passengers to regain control of the aircraft—Tom Burnett, Jeremy Glick, and likely others, according to Hoagland.

Bingham's death, and the way he lived his life, have inspired Hoagland to activism on the following issues: 

  • Aviation security, "or the pervasive lack of it ... Islamist terrorism and its constant threat to our lives here in the U.S as well as abroad."
  • Speaking up for "our precious and hard-fought U.S. citizenship, our American traditions and our free, democratic way of life, in the face of mounting threats from those who would abolish all the freedoms for which we have long fought, in favor of foreign theocratic law."
  • The LGBT community. Bingham was a gay man, she said. "I wish he were alive to see our nation's remarkably swift progress this past year in marriage equality and spousal rights."
  • And rugby. "Rugby and other competitive sports helped prepare a pick-up team of a few United Airlines Flight 93 passengers to draw upon their amateur abilities—honed during their high school and college years—to form a brave and powerful team," she said.

"Armed only with butter knives, fire extinguishers and perhaps a broken wine bottle or two, they charged a hijacked cockpit to face knife-wielding thugs.

"Although our handful of guys couldn't save their own lives, or the lives of the other passengers, they thwarted the hijackers from crashing the airplane into its intended target," she said.

The men most likely saved the nation’s Capitol Building, and many lives in Washington, D.C., Hoagland added.

She continued: "I’m grateful for the return of this tragic anniversary each year because it gives me and all Americans the opportunity to reflect on how far we have come as a nation. And how far we have yet to go."

Los Gatos Patch
interviewed Hoagland on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 in 2011. Read the complete story by clicking here. 




Jake Mooney September 11, 2013 at 03:04 PM
What did his personal choices have to do with his heroism? Being gay does not make you a hero or prevent you from being one.
Wallst September 11, 2013 at 04:54 PM
Being gay is NOT a "personal choice", Jake Mooney, or don't you know that... ?
MichaelJ September 11, 2013 at 07:26 PM
This is a memorial to him and all those who died on that day. What a privilege to learn about the relationship between mother and son.
Marilyn Leonard September 11, 2013 at 08:39 PM
The film, and the memorials that have been built around the country in their honor, reminds us of the courage and sacrifice of everyone involved - not just the people who died - but all of those whose lives they touched and all of us who are left to honor and remember them, and try to prevent something like this from ever happening again.
Wallst September 11, 2013 at 08:45 PM
Well said, Marilyn. Thank you.
Kelly Knowles October 02, 2013 at 04:52 PM
This story was touching and heartbreaking. I appreciate learning more about Mark. What a wonderful person and a true hero. I would love to see the film, and I'm glad to know that it's helpling to bring awareness to important issues. Thanks for the story!

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