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One of the co-founders of the Knights, Mark was a gay man who had been a rugby star for the perennial national collegiate champions from the University of California at Berkeley. Following university Mark helped found the San Francisco Fog Rugby Football Club, a gay team, and was one of its principal players. In May of 2001, as a member of the Fog, he took part in the Washington DC Renegades Invitational Tournament. Although very few in number, most of the gay rugby teams extant at that time took part in the tournament. It was after the tournament that Gotham’s Scott Glaessgen, who had been inspired by the tournament and who had been friends with Mark since 1998, contacted Bingham about forming a gay rugby team in New York City. Mark had recently opened a second office of his successful public relations firm in NYC and was spending more time on the East Coast. Mark was excited about the possibility and over the summer the two men started planning the formation of a New York City team.
Their fledgling efforts were cut short when, on September 11, 2001, Mark’s flight to San Francisco, United flight 93, was taken over by terrorists. As was later reported, Mark called his mother on his cell phone and she told him about the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Mark and several of the other passengers successfully rushed the cockpit of the plane that subsequently crashed in rural Pennsylvania thereby averting a potentially devastating attack on another target in the nation’s capital. Senator John McCain thanked Mark posthumously for quite possibly saving his life and the lives of other members of Congress.
In the wake of Mark’s death Scott decided that the best tribute to Mark’s memory would be to make sure that the team they had envisioned together became a reality. While the loss of Mark Bingham was tragic by any standard, he lives on in spirit and continues to serve as an inspiration not only to the Gotham Knights Rugby Football Club, but the rugby community, both gay and straight, across the country. Succinctly put, Mark was a good person, a great friend, an excellent rugger, a patriot, and, ultimately, a hero.