Monday, 12 September 2011

A decade on from 9/11 Brighton remembers Robert Eaton

This week the eyes of the world turned to New York and Ground Zero as the city marked the 10th anniversary of the cowardly terrorist attack on the Twin Towers - an attack that shook the US right to the core.

Thousands of people gathered to remember those who so needlessly lost their lives and to show solidarity with the families still mourning the death of loved ones.

A total of 2,977 people died that day - a day which it is almost impossible to believe was a decade ago, with the now iconic images still so ingrained on the consciousness of anyone who saw the events unfold live on television.

However, it was not just the Big Apple commemorating the loss of one of its own. Brighton fan Robert Eaton was one of the 2,606 who died in the Twin Towers. He had been going about his usual day’s work on the 105th floor of the World Trade Centre when the terrorist controlled planes struck.

He may have even been logging on to the internet to catch up with the latest goings on at the Albion. However, as the chaos was transmitted across the Pond to the UK, it became clear Robert would never again watch his beloved Seagulls. He wouldn’t even make it back to his home in Queens.

And, as news of his death spread, friends and fellow supporters were determined the popular Albion fan would not be forgotten.

The Robert Eaton Memorial Fund was formed. A match between Brighton and Crystal Palace supporters set the ball rolling - and in the years since the charity has raised tens of thousands of pounds in Robert’s name.

That cash has helped provide football equipment to a host of local junior clubs, as well as Los Peladitos - a youth team in Robert’s adopted home.

Closer to home the Seagulls Specials club, which works with disabled youngsters, has been given £7,000 to help with their amazing work, and another eight clubs have benefited from the charity’s fundraising.

Coaching For Hope - a charity which uses football to support youngsters orphaned by the Aids epidemic in areas like Cambodia - has been given £3,000, and the charity continues to go from strength to strength.

And earlier this week - to mark the 10th anniversary of Robert’s untimely death - the charity handed over a £30,000 cheque to the Seagull Specials, a Brighton-based football team which works with the disabled.

In the decade since the attack, the REMF has raised more than £100,000 - with every penny going to help young people play football. A fitting legacy indeed for someone who was so passionate about the game.

Last year I visited the site of the World Trade Centre hoping there would be some sort of shrine, or place to leave the top. There wasn’t. Instead I gave it to a bar, Foley’s, near Madison Square Gardens. The owner, Shaun, collected football memorabilia from around the sporting world and the Brighton shirt with Eaton on the back now hangs in pride of place above the main bar.

It seemed right that such a friendly, welcoming corner of his adopted city now had a permanent reminded of Robert’s all-too-short life.

As an Albion fan I have a thousand memories associated with the club. None are better than the good work I have seen being done by the REMF - a charity I have been privileged to be a part of in recent years.

So, watching the memorial services on television this week, my mind turned almost exclusively to a fellow Brighton fan I never had the pleasure of meeting but whose name will now never be forgotten.

Grief unites people. You only need to look at how sincerely the world has stood shoulder to shoulder with New Yorkers over the last few days to appreciate that.

But sport, and hope unites people to. And the work being done by the REMF in Robert’s name will make sure that, though he can never be brought back, his will be a legacy which continues long after his death.

We owe it to Robert and the 2,976 others murdered that dark, dark day ten years ago, to keep making positives out of the most negative of all situations.

As long as people remember, and continue to do good in the name of people like Robert, then the cowards that took their lives will never win.

- I am running the Brighton Marathon in aid of the REMF. If anyone would like to contribute to this great cause, please visit THIS WEBSITE and donate just a few pounds or dollars.

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