I met Mark Bingham shortly before he died.
At the time, I was doing temporary tattoos in Jackson Square here in New Orleans. He walked up to my set-up and picked out a bear claw tattoo and asked if I could draw it on his shoulder. I didn't get a "gay vibe" from him really, and it's pretty common for a lot of straight men to ask for the bear claw, not realizing it's a gay symbol. So to gently steer a straight guy from unknowingly getting a gay tattoo, I always just say "you're getting this for courage, right?" Then I watch their response to see if they know what they're getting into. I asked Mark this question as he took his shirt off, and as he sat down he said "yeah, you never know when you'll need a little extra courage." He then winked at me and smiled to let me know he was aware of the meaning. It was at this point I remember instantly liking this guy. I remember I had to sit up very straight in my chair to reach his shoulder because he was very tall. After I finished, a friend took several pictures of him and his tattoo. The photo on the cover of "Hero of Flight 93" was taken of him showing off his bear claw tattoo immediately after I finished the tattoo.
Well, 9/11 came and went and I remember hearing the name Mark Bingham many times but never put two and two together. Not until exactly one year later. A customer came to me and told me he wanted to get a tattoo from the guy who did Mark Bingham's tattoo and that he saw a picture of me doing Mark's tattoo on a Mark Bingham Memorial website. I said "who is Mark Bingham." Then I remembered.
I had always felt like I knew someone who died in 9/11 because of how deeply it affected me. And after that customer telling me about Mark it all made sense. Even though I only got to talk to him for a few minutes while I did his tattoo and took pictures, he made a big impression on me. I meet thousands of tourists a year through my work, so for me to remember someone a year later really means something. When you're in the presence of some people, you just know they are good. And I know it sounds silly, but a part of me is proud to know he was wearing my "courage" tattoo when he was taking on those hijackers.