9/11 Voices: Alice Hoagland, Mother of Mark Bingham
September 09 2011 5:00 AM ET
Whether it’s gay rights or other issues, Hoagland is not afraid to speak her mind. As 9/11 becomes more of a distant memory, that becomes even clearer.
Over the past decade, Hoagland has emerged as an advocate for multiple causes “that have risen out of the wreckage of my life,” as she puts it. LGBT equality, air travel safety, and youth sports are among them. She has also increasingly spoken out against what she sees as the dangers of radical Islam in this country, a gradual shift in her activism that may resonate with some and alienate others.
“I don’t know how I’m supposed to line up politically,” she says. “It seems perfectly logical for me that I would be a mom who’s all for rugby, all for the LGBT community, and very strongly against terrorism. And for reconciliation, but against radical Islam in the United States and elsewhere. To me, I seem perfectly consistent.”
On Sunday, Hoagland hopes that political division will be set aside at the memorial commemoration, however. (“Mark did teach me how important it is to reach across the table, to seek out the good things that we all have in common,” she says). Some critics have previously objected to the design of the memorial by Los Angeles–based architect Paul Murdoch. Originally titled Crescent of Embrace, the perceived religious symbolism was too much for at least one family. Tom Burnett Sr., whose son Tom died on the flight and is believed to have aided Bingham and others in thwarting the terrorists’ original intent, told TheNew York Times in 2008, “It's really revolting to me, this whole thing. It's an insult to my son and all the others." (The title and design of the site were later modified.)
Hoagland says she regrets that the Shanksville memorial ever became the subject of such controversy. “I’m going to reserve judgment about the motivations of Paul Murdoch. I know that much can be made out of very little. It seems like a lovely place to me, the design seems fine, it rests lightly on the land, and I look forward to going back. The National Park Service did a wonderful job. I only wish that Tom Burnett and his wife, Beverly, were going to be there.”
How does one honor Bingham, his fellow passengers, and the thousands of victims who lost their lives nearly 10 years ago? Hoagland has a quick answer for that too: Pledge to do a good deed through 911day.org, a project by the nonprofit MyGoodDeed, which Hoagland has supported as part of the September 11 National Day of Service. “Figure out something important to you. Work in a soup kitchen, send out letters to those who have lost loved ones — anything that has great significance to you, in remembrance.”