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Mother of San Francisco victim believes son died a hero

By Michelle R. Smith Associated Press Writer
Wednesday September 12, 2001

SAN FRANCISCO — The mother of a San Francisco man believes her son died a hero aboard one of the airplanes hijacked and destroyed by terrorists. 

Mark Bingham, 31, was sitting in seat 4D in the rear of First Class on United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. The plane crashed into a grassy field outside Pittsburgh, and Bingham’s mother believes he helped prevent the hijackers from reaching their intended target. 

“The fact that he was so close to the action, it is likely that he was able to get at these guys,” Alice Hoglan said. “He was probably close to where the hijackers did their thing. 

“It gives me a great deal of comfort to know my son may have been able to avert the killing of many, many innocent people.” 

Hoglan, a flight attendant for United, described her son as cerebral and sensitive, but also athletic. He attended the University of California, Berkeley, and was on the rugby team the year it won a national title, she said. 

He was once attacked on the street in San Francisco and wrestled his attackers to the ground, Hoglan said. 

Federal officials have said the intended target of the plane may have been Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland. Flight 93 was the only one of the four planes that missed its target Tuesday. 

Bingham called his mother early Tuesday morning from an airphone on the plane. He began their conversation with the words, “Hi Mom. This is Mark Bingham,” providing a clue to his state of mind as he spoke. 

Hoglan said her son told her the aircraft had been taken over by three men, who said they had a bomb. He mentioned no other weapons. 

She believes the call was made 10 to 15 minutes before the plane crashed. 

Bingham owned a public relations firm, The Bingham Group, with offices in New York and San Francisco. He was splitting his time between the two cities. 

“He was coming home,” Hoglan said. 

Hoglan was surrounded by her son’s friends Tuesday at a relative’s home in Saratoga. 

“He’s a very delightful man,” she said. “I’m pleased that he was my son, and the last thoughts were of his family.”