Mark Bingham pictured with his mother, Alice Hoagland.

Millions of people around the world paused on Monday to remember the victims and the horror of Sept. 11, 2001.

Commemorative events were held at the attack sites in New York City and the Pentagon, and also Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where Flight 93 crashed into a field.

Visitors to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County can walk along the white marble Wall of Names, on which the names of the 40 passengers and crew members are inscribed.

Among them is Mark Bingham, who was among the group that stormed the cockpit and prevented the terrorists from reaching their intended target.

The Wall of Names marks the flight path and final approach of Flight 93.

Bingham was an out gay man and a pivotal figure in the gay rugby movement which was burgeoning in the early 2000s. His team, San Francisco Fog, had won the first invitational tournament held in Washington D.C. in May 2001 and he was in the process of setting up the Gotham Knights in NYC when he lost his life.

On the first episode of a new podcast called ‘The Third Half’, produced by International Gay Rugby with support from Gilbert Rugby Canada, hosts David Cameron-Donnachie and Jamie Lourenco are joined by guest Amanda Mark, who was Bingham’s best friend.

They were together the day before Bingham took that fateful trip from Newark to San Francisco and in a moving conversation, she talks about their close bond, his passion for rugby, and the ongoing impact of the IGR family.

She recalls how, for a time, Bingham backed away from the sport at which he had excelled at high school and at the University of California, Berkeley.

“He didn’t think that being gay and playing rugby were compatible and he was worried what his teammates would think if they found out he was gay,” she explains.

“The early 1990s was a different time. He stopped playing and was devastated about that.

“But a few years later, in San Francisco, he was in one of the parks and saw these guys throwing around a rugby ball.

“He was drawn to the ball — like a moth to a light — and headed over to discover they were an inclusive team, the San Francisco Fog. He could not believe it. He joined in, started playing and was thrilled that his worlds had collided.

“He joined the team and that gave him huge amounts of joy. Rugby taught him about being a team player and he was always looking out for his friends.

“Wherever you went and met Mark, he was one of these generous people who would welcome you into his group.”

After his death, the IGR’s flagship tournament, the Bingham Cup, was named in his honor. It is held biennially; the 2024 edition will be in Rome.

“There is still a need for International Gay Rugby,” says Amanda Mark on the podcast.

“It encourages people to continue coming through, and to find their own strength and sense of belonging.

“That is what we want to continue to build through the IGR movement and the tournaments that are held in different regions around the world.

“All of this is allowing people to be themselves and bringing them together to enjoy a sport that is for all.”

Bingham’s heroism and his significant role in IGR history were recognized with an entry in Outsports’ 2013 list of the 100 most important moments in LGBTQ sports history.

More recently, at the opening game of the 2023 Rugby World Cup last Friday, Cyril Leroy — the founder of France’s first gay rugby club — was given the role of official ball-carrier for the match in Paris.

Leroy set up Les Gaillards after learning about the 2002 Bingham Cup tournament, which took place in San Francisco and was won by the Fog.

Bingham’s mother, Alice Hoagland, awarded the trophy to the host club and became a ‘godmother’ figure in gay rugby. She passed away in December 2020.

An hour-long documentary titled ‘Legacy: The Mark Bingham Story’ was released by World Rugby in 2019 and is still available to watch for free on YouTube.

‘The Third Half’ is available to listen to now on Spotify.