LOS GATOS, Calif. (KGO) -- A South Bay mother said that Senator John McCain helped her through the loss of her 31-year-old son, who was killed on September 11, 2001.
Alice Hoagland explained her friend wrote McCain shortly after the attacks, and neither knew the note would lead to one of the most special moments of Hoagland's life.
She was living some of her darkest days when John and Cindy McCain made a special trip to the University of California at Berkeley.
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McCain was one of several people who spoke during Mark Bingham's September 2001 memorial.
Bingham was Hoagland's son and was also among the passengers on board United Airlines Flight 93.
Bingham and others are believed to have thwarted the hijackers' plans to crash the plane into a building in Washington D.C.
ABC7 News cameras were present on that day in 2001, as McCain spoke about Bingham.
"What he said really touched my heart," Hoagland explained. "He said, 'I didn't know Mark Bingham...'"
"I may very well owe my life to Mark," McCain said in front of a crowd. "And the others who summoned the enormous courage and love necessary to deny those depraved, hateful men a terrible triumph. Such a debt, you incur for life."
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"He was right about that," Hoagland said.
Hoagland says McCain brought a sense of calm when there were so many questions about her son's death.
However, in life, Hoagland says her son fully respected the Republican politician.
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During a San Francisco presidential campaign stop in 2000, Bingham took a break from work and went out of his way to meet McCain.
Hoagland shared a picture of the men's interaction, captured a year before Bingham's death.
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"Senator McCain was trying to look tall," Hoagland said, mid-laugh. "It was hard to do next to a guy who was 6'4. They were both grinning."
The photo captured a moment of happier and healthier times.
Hoagland said McCain's words and actions all those years ago brought the admiration her son had for the senator full-circle.
McCain publicly shared his respect for Bingham's actions at the 2001 memorial.
"He was at the Capitol Building on that awful afternoon," Hoagland said about McCain. "So, I think that's why he told us all that he had a personal debt to Mark and the others because, 'He very well may have saved my life,' he said."
Hoagland told ABC7 News her son was an openly gay man, "I don't think that John McCain knew that when he agreed to come to Mark's funeral, but Senator McCain just rolled right with it."
She said McCain often mentioned Bingham when discussing his interactions and connections to the LGBTQ community.
"Mark and I never really talked politics very much," Hoagland said. "So, I don't know his political inclinations. I guess I never will now. But I do know that he was a supporter of John McCain."
Hoagland said she only wishes she said more to the senator. Hoagland explained she never got around to writing Senator McCain about his impact on her life.
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"I'm going to go to my grave regretting that I did not write to John McCain when I should have months ago," she said. "When I could've expressed my appreciation and love for him and his fine record of accomplishments for the United States of America."
Now, she has plans to write Cindy McCain.
Reminscing on her son's memorial service, Hoagland recalled the interaction between the senator and his wife.
"She was busy straightening his tie and supporting him and loving him," Hoagland said. "I'm so glad that he had her comfort and support in his last days."
She added, "Senator McCain made it a point to introduce me to his wife, and made it a point to say kind and loving, and consoling things to me as a mom who had just lost a son on 9/11."
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