McCain comes to campus to help honor American hero
Arizona senator is among group remembering Mark Bingham at private memorial service

By Marie Felde, Public Affairs


mccain and Alice Hoglan

Senator John McCain, left, and Mark Bingham's mother, Alice Hoglan, at the memorial service held at Wheeler Auditorium in honor of her son.
Peg Skorpinski photo

26 September 2001 | A private memorial service for a Cal alumnus turned into a public celebration of the life of a hero on Saturday in Wheeler Auditorium when U.S. Sen. John McCain honored Mark Bingham, one of the passengers aboard hijacked United Airlines Flight 93.

McCain, R-Arizona, said he had not known Bingham, but wished he had. The 31-year-old Bingham, a former Cal rugby player, had been a supporter of McCain’s presidential bid and the senator was asked by friends and family to speak at the memorial service.

Chancellor Berdahl welcomed guests to the campus. He talked about how the campus had learned it had lost one of its own on Sept. 11, how the campus community had responded to the terrorist attacks and how fitting it was that the life of Mark Bingham should be celebrated at his beloved alma mater.

“Like America, (the Berkeley campus) relishes its freedom; it speaks with many voices — always with passion and intensity, frequently very loudly. Contrary views, expressions of dissent here are often interpreted by others to be expressions of disloyalty. They are not. The debate is always about means, never about ends. The ends are always those that all America prays for; peace, liberty, justice.”

McCain noted that the hijackers on Flight 93 may well have had the U.S. Capitol as their target. The actions of Bingham and others aboard to bring the flight down in western Pennsylvania, he said, may well have saved McCain’s life that day. “Such a debt,” he said, “you incur for life.”

“I love my country, but I cannot say I love her more than the people on Flight 93 who gave their lives to protect us,” said McCain.

The Men’s Octet set the tone for both celebrating Bingham’s life and for expressing sorrow at his loss with a memorably moving rendition of “Hail to California.”

The campus connection was threaded throughout the service. Bingham had played on the Cal rugby teams in the early 1990s that won national titles. He was president of the Chi Psi fraternity, said his friend Todd Sarner.

Sarner was one of 13 family members and friends who spoke of Bingham’s many attributes, from a great love of life to his well-known refusal to take “no” for an answer.

Sarner said he remembered how he, Bingham and a group of friends had once come to Wheeler Auditorium to watch a late-night movie. The group was turned way because the auditorium was sold out.

“I feel kind of funny telling this in front of the chancellor,” said Sarner, as he recalled, with laugher from the guests, how Bingham wouldn’t accept that and led his friends into Wheeler Hall through a back window and then helped them sneak into the auditorium to watch the film.

Full text of Chancellor Berdahl's remarks from memorial


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