Alice Hoagland, the beloved mother of United Flight 93 passenger Mark Bingham, died in late December in California. Hoagland, 71, suffered from the endocrine disorder known as Addison's disease.
Hoagland spoke to her son on the morning of September 11, 2001, shortly before he helped storm the cabin of his hijacked plane, bringing it down in a Pennsylvania field instead of the terrorists' intended target, the U.S. Capitol. Hoagland said she talked to her son for three minutes before the call was cut off. She then left several messages on his cell phone where she advised him to try to commandeer the plane from the terrorists, knowing they intended to use the jet as a weapon of mass destruction. Rather than panic, Hoagland — a former flight attendant — remained calm and assertive through a parent's worst nightmare.
In the last two decades of her life, Hoagland carried on the sporting legacy of her gay son, an avid rugby player. Bingham helped establish San Francisco's queer rugby team, the Fog, in 2000 and played as its main forward. Bingham previously played rugby as a student at the University of California, Berkeley.
After her son's death at age 31 — a man she described to The Advocate as someone who “demonstrated love, loyalty, and courage throughout his brief life” — Hoagland supported the sport he loved, promoting the International Gay Rugby league and attending several high-profile matches.
After Bingham's death, International Gay Rugby named its biennial tournament the Mark Kendall Bingham Memorial Tournament, also known as the Bingham Cup. One of the trophies awarded at the match honors Bingham's mother and is named the Hoagland Cup.
“I’m basking in the memory of the muddy, joyful and bellowing event that kicked off my summer,” Hoagland told The Advocate in 2012. “The Bingham Cup is the LGBT biennial rugby tournament that began in San Francisco in 2002, played then by a half dozen teams of mostly gay men. This past June, though, nearly 30 teams vied for the Cups and Plates as 'VI Bingham Cup' came to Manchester, England.”
Hoagland's other causes included advocating for better airline security and allowing 9/11 victims to sue the government of Saudi Arabia, which she believed was complicit in the terror attacks.
Shortly after her son's death, Hoagland spoke to Jon Barrett, then The Advocate's news editor, about her son's legacy. She said the sociable, adventure-loving Bingham “lived the life that [she] always dreamed of.”
Barrett, currently a journalist with Bloomberg News and a former editor in chief of The Advocate, wrote a book about Bingham in 2002. Hero of Flight 93: Mark Bingham was as much about Hoagland as it was about her son, Barrett says now.
In a message to The Advocate, Barrett remembers Hoagland as less of a grieving mother and more of a woman of fierce strength and spirit; Barrett shared a story about Hoagland encountering a burning car on the side of the road, putting it out herself with a fire extinguisher she carried with her.
“Mark was her life before he died. She was his life,” Barrett recalls. “He continued to be her life after his death. Mark’s memory, LGBT rights, and flight safety. And gay people — especially gay rugby players — surrounded and supported her in ways that must have been so wonderful to her. Not replacing what she lost. But such a comfort.”
Hoagland is featured in the following video from 2018's Bingham Cup: