(This story was published in 2001).
By: Brent Mullins
We all want to believe that we're capable of being heroes, when that one moment of truth comes along challenging us to do a heroic act under pressure. When we don't know the end from the beginning. When we can't tell the price of our sacrifice, but that in the end turns out to be the right thing. The thing that saves the day.
Such a thing happened Tuesday in the skies above rural western Pennsylvania. And one of the heroes was Mark Bingham. His actions not only saved the day--they saved countless days, of countless number of people. Saving perhaps the most important symbol that we have--The White House.
It was late Tuesday and I had just heard that Mark was one of the passengers on the hijacked United #93 from Newark to San Francisco. The one that crashed in Pennsylvania. His face faded in from my memory, locking into a warm, enveloping, playful smile as he stood on the football field in Hollywood two years ago.
Mark? 6'5", handsome, rugged, talented Mark? Caught between my memories and the realities of TV imagery, I imagined Mark on the plane, being confronted by armed hijackers claiming to have a bomb. Instinctively I knew Mark had done something to confront the hijackers and save others. That's just how Mark was.
I hardly qualify as a close friend of Mark's. He came down with his flag football team from San Francisco to play ours in Los Angeles. We went up to San Francisco to play his. Some e-mails, a few phone calls. And yet I feel I knew him. He was just the kind of guy that you could meet for a short time and yet feel you knew well. There was no facade. No pretense. No attitude. Just an incredible man of great stature and accomplishment with no need to impress.
When I went back to Mark on that plane, I thought of a young Jack Ryan character from Tom Clancey novels and movies. A man who just happened to have extraordinary circumstances thrust upon him. Reacting instinctively, he becomes a hero for just doing something that comes naturally to him.
Mark was just such a man--he would no more cower from danger in the air than he would be someone that took a cheap shot on the field. He would refuse to be someone other than who he was: a proactive, protective man of action.
In the midst of the biggest national crisis of our lives, I recalled an Old Testament story from my childhood, and thought of Mark, who was made "For such a time as this."
In the story, King Xerxes picked Esther to be queen. A royal plotter, furious that Esther's uncle Mordecai refused to go along with plans to kill the king, maneuvers Xerxes into approving the destruction of Mordecai's people.
Esther was secretly a member of the condemned group, and Mordecai pressed her to intercede with the king, knowing that if she approached the king without being summoned she would be killed. But Mordecai prevailed upon her, telling her, "If you remain silent, you and our entire people will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"
She responded, "I will go--and if I perish, I perish."
"If I perish, I perish."
Albert Camus, during the French Resistance to the Nazis, said, "Civilizations are not built by rapping people on the knuckles. They are built up by the confrontation of ideas, by the blood of the spirit, by suffering and courage.''
We now know that at least three of the condemned passengers on board decided to act. Because they had to. When it comes down to these moments of crisis, all you have is what you've always been. It was who they were, and it was what they were called to be. A special opportunity to save others, ahead of themselves.
Saving Mark Bingham a special place in history.
A special place in my heart.
For your inspiration.
"For such a time as this."
Brent Mullins, a Los Angeles-based producer and writer, is a member of L.A. Motion, a gay flag football group.