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U.S. News
Alice Hoglan: Mother of Flight 93 victim

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

By Steve Levin, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Alice Hoglan speaks without a trace of irony in her voice, just the pain of a mother who has lost her son.

"It's a funny thing about grieving," she said. "It actually feels worse than it did on the morning of September 11th.

"For me, it's just been September the whole year long."

Her son, Mark Bingham, was one of the passengers on United Flight 93.

Initially immobilized by grief, Hoglan has tried to lose herself in work, both her job as a flight attendant with United Airlines and her advocacy for everything from airline security to gay issues.

"I just promised my son and committed to speaking intelligently on these subjects," Hoglan said. Besides those two issues, she has put homeland security, patriotism and rugby -- her son's favorite sport -- on the list of her five most important advocacy efforts.

The fact that her son was gay and is believed to have played a prominent role in the passengers' effort to take over Flight 93 has made her a national icon; she is scheduled to be a guest speaker Saturday in Minneapolis for one of the country's biggest gay rights lobbies, the Human Rights Campaign, and is routinely recognized on the streets in San Francisco.

But airline safety remains her primary focus, and she rails against what she calls the airlines' "remarkably recalcitrant and immovable" attitude.

She said the only reason she returned to her job of 17 years as a United flight attendant was to observe firsthand the lack of airline security. What she has found makes her angry.

"We need to have much better baggage inspection, improved training for flight crews, more insulation of the cockpit and a more critical look at the access to aircraft by those flying it or serving it," she said.

"The airlines are conducting business as usual."

Her outspokenness has caused some friction with United, she said, but if it ultimately costs her her job, then she'll pay that price.

"My job is not worth my silence," she said.

She is adamant about not accepting a federal government compensation plan that has been offered to family members of Sept. 11 victims, in part because it would require her to give up her right to sue the airlines. She plans to file a lawsuit as a way to force the airlines to answer questions in court about the quality of their airline security.

In addition, Hoglan wants to join the trillion-dollar lawsuit filed last month against the government of Saudi Arabia and about 80 other defendants.

She is so busy that she has been booked for events through June 2003, and that's before she has waded through more than 2,200 unanswered e-mails she has received.

Keeping busy is good for Hoglan. Since her mother died in June, Hoglan describes her mental health as "kind of dicey." Some days, she said, she just hangs on. To help herself she tries to walk and run three miles every day.

But she always comes back to the same realization: the boy she raised alone is gone, she is left alone and nothing will be the same again.

"I don't think I'm the same person I was at all a year ago," she said.

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