A Day of Somber Reflection

A Day of Somber Reflection

The New Yorker 9/11 cover, image courtesy of The New Yorker

I’m breaking from my normal blog posts and graduate school thoughts for some reflection on 9/11.

We were all affected by September 11th in some way, whether it was a direct connection to people killed in the attacks, a family member or friend that enlisted afterward, or a sense of fear that crept into aspects of our lives. September 11th was last week, and I took some time to reflect, watch videos, read articles, and think about how it affected me.

I’m not going to tell you my “where I was when I found out the news” story. Frankly, many people’s were the same—we were in class and watched the news the entire day, or we were at work and stopped the day to watch the news. We were a nation united by a single event, maybe more so than ever before (and I’d be likely to say, yes, absolutely this is true).

I’m part of a community now that has a different connection to that day in the aftermath. Mark Bingham, an openly gay rugby player, was on United flight 93 on the day of the attacks. He was instrumental in taking over the terrorists and driving the plane down, saving who-knows-how-many lives in the process by not allowing the hijacked plane to run into a populated area.

Bingham was out, and in a time when the tide on homophobia was turning and gay tolerance was starting to become more common, this man performed a heroic act. It didn’t matter that he was gay or an athlete or young or big—it mattered that he cared enough about his fellow humans to not want anyone else to die. The passengers knew they were dead. But, he wanted to make sure no one else would be killed because of the terrorists.

His story is chilling. Last summer, my team played in the 6th Bingham Cup in Manchester, United Kingdom. After Bingham’s death, an amateur rugby tournament was named in his honor. It is composed of IGRAB teams, which are teams with gay players from around the world. Three days of rugby are played on an international scale, and teams unite in brotherhood and rivalry. Of course, we all remember Bingham at this event and talk about him and his legacy. Yesterday, a friend posted this video on my rugby team’s page. I watched it at work and it really affected me.


This man never meant for his life to turn into this huge thing, having the world’s largest amateur rugby tournament named in his honor, a documentary film made about him, becoming a character in another film, and becoming a face for being out and athletic. But, circumstances turned his life into this. I felt proud playing in a tournament dedicated to this man last June. I got goosebumps last night when my coach toasted him at the bar after practice.

This post is a bit convoluted, like my thoughts on September 11th. I had a teacher tell me a few years ago that all of literature is changed in a post 9/11 world—nothing new can be created that doesn’t have some tie to 9/11. I don’t know if that’s true, but I also don’t know if that’s untrue. I do know we were all shaped, in some way, to some degree, by that day.

I think the point of all of this is this: Reflecting on 9/11 and, specifically, Mark Bingham’s legacy yesterday, I understood something about myself that I’ve always kind of known—I want to do something that matters. I’m not going to make a comparison between myself and any of these brave men and women on United 93. But, I think that all art that comes from me should matter, whether it’s to me, my readers, my family, or even to my ideals and passions. Art should matter. I don’t know why exactly reflecting on 9/11 made me think this, and I don’t really even know if I think that thought was appropriate. But, it’s me, and I’m human, and to make art authentic, you have to be affected by what’s around you and your feelings and let them help guide you.