Cal Brothers – My Anual YOLO #FistBump to Mark Bingham, an American Hero


“Your Cal Bear Brother” That is how Mark used to sign off on his emails to me. And man, were we ever like brothers… but then again, he was like a brother to a lot of folks, which was one of the defining characteristics of Mark. Recently I just happened to come across one of his last emails to me before that tragic day on September 11, 2001, and saw that sign-off…. I don’t think I’ve read that email in fifteen years… and it’s just so perfect I want to share it with you, because you SO get an insight into how Mark lived the hell out of life (it’s down at the botton). And as I say every year, when I cornily say YOLO!! (and mean it!) and give you that lame fist bump, Mark is the inspiration for that. The pics that accompany this are all from a spur-of -the-moment last minute weekend trip we took to Chicago.

mark and me chicago 3

I miss Mark… I get a little meloncholy every year on this day, but not in a bad way, just in that way that’s good for your soul… remembering people who leave us too early. I don’t know why but I feel it more this year. Maybe it’s being back at Cal, which Mark would absolutely love. My first stint at Cal, in my Classics 180, Athletics in Ancient Greece class, professor Miller lectured about what made hero in Ancient Greece… And he said one of the components of a hero is they have to die before their time while having done something glorious. My college roommate, Mike Pawlawski – who led Cal to a #7 ranking in 1991 – had to do a talk to the class on what a hero is, and it was awesome and he used Joe Roth. But I tell you, if i was doing that talk today, I would use Mark Bigham.


Senator John McCain at Mark’s Memorial Service

“I didn’t know Mark Bingham. We met once briefly during my presidential campaign, yet I cannot say that I knew him well. But I wish I had. I wish I had. You meet a lot of people when you run for President. I was fortunate to have had the support of many Americans who were, until then, strangers to me. And I regret to say, that like most candidates I was pre-occupied with winning or losing. I had not thought as much as I should have about what an honor, what an extraordinary honor it was to have so many citizens of the greatest nation on earth place their trust in me, and use our campaign as an expression of their own patriotism. They were the best thing about our campaign, not me. Had I been successful, my greatest challenge would have been to prove myself worthy of the faith of so many good people.

“I love my country, and I take pride in serving her. But I cannot say that I love her more or as well as Mark Bingham did, or the other heroes on United Flight 93 who gave their lives to prevent our enemies from inflicting an even greater injury on our country. It has been my fate to witness great courage and sacrifice for America’s sake, but none greater than the selfless sacrifice of Mark Bingham and those good men who grasped the gravity of the moment, understood the threat, and decided to fight back at the cost of their lives.


Beers (or Gin) were always involved!

I realize a lot of younger people don’t know the story of mark.  Take some  times to read about the stories like this one, and this one, and this one.  Take just a few minutes to read this email… To me it’s almost a spiritual sherpa guide to the secret of living life. You’ve probably heard me say, we don’t know when it’s going to be our time. Mark had no intention of meeting his end on September 11, 2001. But he met it with the same leadership,  ardor and focus he met life. He and the others took over that hijacked plane and kept it from doing even greater damage. They in all likelihood knew they were going to die, but they were NOT going down without a fight. I can’t think of a better legacy.

mark and me chicago 1

Two Cal Bears having lunch at the Art Institute of Chicago

We don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. That’s why EVERY day is so important. Don’t waste a day. Don’t waste a friendship. Don’t waste you – your opportunity to leave a legacy, in whatever way you do.

mark and me chicago 2

Mark was taking selfies before they were a thing!

So here’s to you mark. I’m having a gin or two for you today! GO BEARS and FIAT LUX!

From: Mark Bingham <>

To: “” <>
Sent: Wednesday, July 25, 2001, 4:09:05 PM PDT
Subject: Mark reply 7-25-01 – Re: Hello from Africa – 18 July 2001
Bonjour Ken!
Comment ca vas?  It’s Mark.  I JUST got in from Paris.
Literally, I walked in the door just a few minutes
ago.  We had the most amazing, exhilarating, wild time
in Europe.  I’ve got lots to tell you, but first some
comments on your email:
It sounds like you are really helping to improve
people’s lives.  That must be the most incredible
feeling!  I’m thinking about you a lot.  I miss
working out, talking about sports, our inside jokes
and all the uncontrollable laughter we derive from
dishing on the queens here in SF.  (I haven’t been
back here since mid-May!!)
So what kind of actual food is it…local fare?  Or
like burgers and stuff.  Also, I don’t understand the
part about the cook…he came from Mozambique JUST to
cook for you??  That can’t be right.
So what can we do over here to help…cash donations,
send Nikes, send pictures from Italy and France for
your geography sessions??
I WOULD LOVE to teach kids…that must be a blast.
So I’ve been travelling for a couple of months
now…you heard about my hijinx in Italy.  That was a
BLAST…so sorry I havent scanned photos yet….just
lots of frantic travel happening.  I’ll try to do it
next week.
I came back to NY for a few days between June 25 and
4th of July… Lots of fun stuff there: went to Fire
Island for a gorgeous weekend, saw the Macy’s 4th of
July fireworks with Amanda and Mike Petrovich from a
friend’s rooftop apartment on the east river…It was
throngs of people — hundreds of thousands –lining
the water front…and we were 15 stories up…eating
canapes in this guy’s apartment, drinking champagne,
and then scampering up to the roof for the
pyrotechnics…very cool.
Andrew Smith and Kobren and a couple of other guys
came to NY to play in this wacky basketball
tournament… I couldnt play as I was still nursing my
dislocated shoulder from the DC rugby tourney.
Anyway, I bailed for London to meet Spencer Kelly and
Jay and some other friends on July 5th.
London was a blast.  Didn’t do much shopping…so
pricey, but we partied a lot..did the club scene…and
enjoyed London much more than prior visits because my
friend Rob lives there now and knows the scene.
Went to Tower of London/Crown Jewels, Tate Museum and
new Tate Modern Addition, National Gallery.  The food
basically sucked (the guys I was with were on a bit of
a budget, so we were’nt going upscale).  In general,
we lived pretty cheap the whole trip…3, 4 sometimes
5 in a room.
Flew to Madrid– What an awesome city!  Then caught a
train to Pamplona.  I cannot to tell you how wild
Pamplona was…I’d just read The Sun Also Rises…and
Hemingway’s prep for this event was so on
target….and the book is 60 years old!
Anyway, I think I copied you on the email, but we
survived the running…but I wound up getting gored
and run over by a bull in the bull ring after the run!
(If I haven’t sent you the detailed description
email…let me know and I’ll resend.)
After the drunken festival atmosphere of Pamplona, we
moved out to the coast to San Sebastian…just
gorgeous…If you get a chance to take a week off in
Europe..go to San Sebastian, very cool.  Ibiza is
supposed to be cool too…haven’t been, but I’m
itching to go back to Spain.
France was much more mellow and upscale…lots of
great wine!  Bordeaux region…then Sauterne for the
sweet wines, and then 6 days in Paris…totally
decompressing, having fine wines and majestic pris
fixe meals.  It was awesome.
I’m worried that I sound like an asshole talking about
this lavishness while you’re dealing with grinding
poverty in Africa… my apologies.
Anyway, it’s nice to be back in San Francisco today…
of course, it’s like 90 degrees on the peninsula…and
50 degrees and foggy at my apartment.
I have no car, no cell phone, no laptop, because I
forgot that my return flight from Europe was nonstop
to SF….all my shit is in NY!!
Oh well…I can DEFINITELY make do.  I’m not in ANY
mood to work…I’ll get my car mom is
picking me up in SF tonight.
So, Ken, overall life is good.  I’m anxious to hear
more about your Malawi..I thought there would be LOTS
more kids there…like hundreds.  How many kids are in
your orphanage? Do you have your own room?  Are you
safe? Is security an issue at all?  I hear about
kidnappings of westerners…and just general ethnic
strife among rival factions in Africa.
Okey doke..I”m jet lagged.  Gotta gotta get some
snooze time in.
I’m going on a fitness jag soon…gonna get BIG!
Your Cal Bear Brother,