“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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
So here’s to you mark. I’m having a gin or two for you today! GO BEARS and FIAT LUX!
From: Mark Bingham <firstname.lastname@example.org>To: “email@example.com” <firstname.lastname@example.org>Sent: Wednesday, July 25, 2001, 4:09:05 PM PDTSubject: 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 minutesago. We had the most amazing, exhilarating, wild timein Europe. I’ve got lots to tell you, but first somecomments on your email:WOW!It sounds like you are really helping to improvepeople’s lives. That must be the most incrediblefeeling! I’m thinking about you a lot. I missworking out, talking about sports, our inside jokesand all the uncontrollable laughter we derive fromdishing on the queens here in SF. (I haven’t beenback here since mid-May!!)So what kind of actual food is it…local fare? Orlike burgers and stuff. Also, I don’t understand thepart about the cook…he came from Mozambique JUST tocook 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 foryour geography sessions??I WOULD LOVE to teach kids…that must be a blast.So I’ve been travelling for a couple of monthsnow…you heard about my hijinx in Italy. That was aBLAST…so sorry I havent scanned photos yet….justlots of frantic travel happening. I’ll try to do itnext week.I came back to NY for a few days between June 25 and4th of July… Lots of fun stuff there: went to FireIsland for a gorgeous weekend, saw the Macy’s 4th ofJuly fireworks with Amanda and Mike Petrovich from afriend’s rooftop apartment on the east river…It waslike our OWN PERSONAL FIREWORKS SHOW. There werethrongs of people — hundreds of thousands –liningthe water front…and we were 15 stories up…eatingcanapes in this guy’s apartment, drinking champagne,and then scampering up to the roof for thepyrotechnics…very cool.Andrew Smith and Kobren and a couple of other guyscame to NY to play in this wacky basketballtournament… I couldnt play as I was still nursing mydislocated shoulder from the DC rugby tourney.Anyway, I bailed for London to meet Spencer Kelly andJay and some other friends on July 5th.London was a blast. Didn’t do much shopping…sopricey, but we partied a lot..did the club scene…andenjoyed London much more than prior visits because myfriend Rob lives there now and knows the scene.Went to Tower of London/Crown Jewels, Tate Museum andnew Tate Modern Addition, National Gallery. The foodbasically sucked (the guys I was with were on a bit ofa budget, so we were’nt going upscale). In general,we lived pretty cheap the whole trip…3, 4 sometimes5 in a room.Flew to Madrid– What an awesome city! Then caught atrain to Pamplona. I cannot to tell you how wildPamplona was…I’d just read The Sun Also Rises…andHemingway’s prep for this event was so ontarget….and the book is 60 years old!Anyway, I think I copied you on the email, but wesurvived the running…but I wound up getting goredand run over by a bull in the bull ring after the run!(If I haven’t sent you the detailed descriptionemail…let me know and I’ll resend.)After the drunken festival atmosphere of Pamplona, wemoved out to the coast to San Sebastian…justgorgeous…If you get a chance to take a week off inEurope..go to San Sebastian, very cool. Ibiza issupposed to be cool too…haven’t been, but I’mitching to go back to Spain.France was much more mellow and upscale…lots ofgreat wine! Bordeaux region…then Sauterne for thesweet wines, and then 6 days in Paris…totallydecompressing, having fine wines and majestic prisfixe meals. It was awesome.I’m worried that I sound like an asshole talking aboutthis lavishness while you’re dealing with grindingpoverty 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…and50 degrees and foggy at my apartment.I have no car, no cell phone, no laptop, because Iforgot that my return flight from Europe was nonstopto SF….all my shit is in NY!!Oh well…I can DEFINITELY make do. I’m not in ANYmood to work…I’ll get my car tomorrow..my mom ispicking me up in SF tonight.So, Ken, overall life is good. I’m anxious to hearmore about your Malawi..I thought there would be LOTSmore kids there…like hundreds. How many kids are inyour orphanage? Do you have your own room? Are yousafe? Is security an issue at all? I hear aboutkidnappings of westerners…and just general ethnicstrife among rival factions in Africa.Okey doke..I”m jet lagged. Gotta gotta get somesnooze time in.I’m going on a fitness jag soon…gonna get BIG!Your Cal Bear Brother,Mark