Special Issue: Alumni Bear Witness to Tragedy
At least one dead, one missing after attacks

by José L. Rodríguez and Eddy Ramirez



Mark Bingham, Karen Dowling and Amanda Mark (right to left) enjoy an evening in Australia in 1994. His friends said he died a hero aboard United Flight 93 that crashed in rural Pennsylvania.
Photo courtesy Stacey Roth

20 September 2001 |

“You were so full of life — with so much accomplished in your short stay on this earth. I haven’t known you for a very long time, but we bonded right away, knowing we had so much in common. I grieve and pray for your family and friends, who know so well that you didn’t go down without a fight. Look after all of us from above.

You were a good man… our teammate… our friend… our hero.
We will miss you so dearly.”

— Tribute to Mark Bingham, Class of 1993, by a friend and Cal rugby teammate, posted to a tribute Web site.

The lives of Cal alumni in New York City and Washington, D.C. were changed forever after last Tuesday’s terrorist assault. The two cities and surrounding regions are home to nearly 28,000 alumni, and UC Berkeley graduates are among the employees of businesses in the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon. The crash of four hijacked jetliners, each bound for California, also claimed at least one alumnus.

The stories of alumni who died in, or were witness to, the worst terrorist attack in United States history, capture determination, heroism and the fragility of life.

Max Boot, Class of 1991, numbly watched as the World Trade Center’s south tower collapsed, sending New York City into choas. Boot is the Op-Ed Page Editor for the Wall Street Journal, which is just across the street from the World Trade Center.

That morning, he was riding the subway to work, when it suddenly came to a screeching halt. Police ordered everyone to evacuate, but Boot raced down to his office instead. He was just half a mile from ground zero when he saw the burning south tower collapse “like a Lego toy.

“A huge ball of debris, ash and smoke came racing down. And everyone was running like Indiana Jones was running away from the huge boulder,” he said. “There was chaos everywhere — I heard sirens, and people were walking around like ghostly figures covered in soot and ash.”

Boot immediately tried calling his wife and colleagues, but all lines were dead. Boot’s wife Jeannette, Class of 1991, works at a law firm outside of downtown. She feared her husband was dead. “I thought, oh my God the tunnels caved in. It was two hours later before I finally heard from him.”

Both jumped into a train to their home in Westchester County, about 15 miles from downtown. From home, Boot was able to account for everyone in his staff. Putting out a newspaper instantly became a priority.

“I wasn’t at all surprised to see him working so soon.” Jeannette said. “I know he was thinking what the story angle was since the minute it happened because that’s his job.”

For Boot, working is the best way to keep him from breaking down. He lost a personal friend on board the flight that crashed into the Pentagon.

“Normally you cover someone else’s tragedy — not your own,” he said. “We are having to work under rather unusual circumstances and we try not to think about it too much."

Philip Sheuerman, Class of 1977, is associate general counsel for the U.S. Air Force. His office is in the Pentagon. On the morning of the attack, he was exiting the freeway, turning into the parking lot of the Pentagon, when he noticed a passenger plane — American Airlines Flight 77 — descend at increasing speed with its wheels up.

Sheuerman, who had just heard about the attacks on the World Trade Center minutes before, realized that “it was perfectly obvious what (the plane) was going to do.” He saw the plane slam into the Pentagon.

While it was difficult to concentrate in the days following the attack, he and his colleagues have been undeterred in their work.

“Fundamentally, we’re still here and still going to be here to do our jobs,” he said. “That’s what we’re here for.”

After the World Trade Center and Pentagon were hit, the last of the four hijacked planes crashed in rural southwest Pennsylvania. On board United Airlines Flight 93 was Mark Bingham, Class of 1993, who was returning to San Francisco to meet clients later that day. He phoned his mother and aunt to tell them that the plane had been hijacked and that he loved them.

His mother, Alice Hoglan, told reporters that she believed her son was a hero and helped thwart the hijackers from hitting their intended target, reported as possibly the White House or Air Force One.

Bingham’s friends — citing his profile as an athlete and adventurer — attest to his spirit of standing up for others. They too believe he was one of the passengers who stepped forward in the effort to regain control of the plane.

During his years on campus, Bingham was a member of Cal’s national championship rugby team, and president of Chi Psi fraternity.

“Mark was just recently on campus this spring with his teammates during a reunion of the 1991 national championship team,” said rugby coach Jack Clark. Clark said that at 6-foot-5, Bingham was a very athletic player, “a bit of his own man” and not a follower by any means. In fact, Bingham this summer ran with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.

A defining aspect of Bingham’s remarkable life was his embrace of what he had long considered his two irreconcilable worlds — being an athlete and gay. He joined the San Francisco Fog, a rugby club that became the first gay team accepted into the Northern California Rugby Football Union.

In wake of Bingham’s death, the team launched a tribute page for him on its Web site,, and a makeshift memorial was dedicated to his memory at the corner of Castro and 18th streets in San Francisco.

Another former Cal athlete, who is reported missing at press time, is Brent Woodall, Class of 1993. Woodall played football for Cal between 1988 and 1991.

Woodall worked as a stock trader for the Keefe, Bruyette, and Woods firm on the 89th floor of the south tower of the World Trade Center. After the first jet crashed into the north tower, Woodall phoned his parents in La Jolla to tell them that he was fine and that his tower was unaffected.

When his tower was hit, he called his parents again to tell them that he was evacuating the building. That was the last contact received by his parents.


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