A Mark Bingham history tour

Mark Bingham was a rugby champion; PR firm owner; friend to hundreds; fervent University of California, Berkeley, booster; and gay man. His death—and, when his story hit the wires, his life—gave America an authentic gay hero.

BY Barbara Wilcox

September 11 2006 12:00 AM ET

Bingham was working to establish an office in New York before his death, and he was flying back to attend a friend's Bay Area wedding aboard the plane that went down.

More than 130,000 people a year visit the rolling, wooded crash site in Pennsylvania. A temporary memorial holds flowers, handwritten notes, artwork, and other tokens from visitors overcome by emotion. Local volunteers greet visitors 365 days a year, and the visitor tributes—now 20,000 and counting—are conserved by the National Park Service.

About $7.2 million has been raised toward a $30 million capital campaign, according to the Flight 93 Memorial Project, with additional funding from the federal government. The memorial is scheduled to be completed in 2011.

In September 2005, Paul Murdoch Architects of Los Angeles won the competition for a permanent memorial envisioned on a 1,300-acre site. It includes a Tower of Voices tall enough to be seen from the highway, ringed by white pines and housing 40 wind chimes—one for Mark Bingham and each of the 39 others who died on Flight 93.

Mark Bingham history tour, memorial | Advocate.com

Planned Flight 93 Memorial Project near Shanksville, Pa. Paul Murdoch Architects & Aleksander Novak-Zempliski

The chimes' sound is meant to evoke the voices, on cell phone and radio, that are their owners' final traces.

Forty concentric groves of maples—most beautiful in September, when the plane went down—symbolize the enduring influence of those who chose to make a difference that day.

Bingham has now been gone longer than he and Holm were together. But the lives he left behind remain intertwined: Holm is starting a branding firm with Eberhart, and he remains a regular at Chi Psi weddings.

"Mark was like a human Labrador retriever, exuding this happy positive presence, always," he says. "He woke up every day—usually a little late every day—loving life."

 

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