Monday, 10 September 2012

Eleven years on from 9/11 and £100,000 plus has been raised in memory of Robert Eaton

Tomorrow is September 11.

Eleven years ago the world watched in horror as almost 3,000 people, people who were guilty of nothing other than going about their daily business, were killed during the terrorist attacks on New York City.

One of them was Robert Eaton. A Brighton and Hove Albion fan who worked on the 105th floor of the World Trade Centre.

His life ended abruptly, cruelly and in terrible circumstances. On any normal day he would have been logging onto his emails, perhaps checking out the latest news on his beloved Seagulls before settling down to his work.

But September 11 was not a normal day. And Robert would not get to do any of those day-to-day things so many of us take for granted ever again.

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 (REMF) was formed. A match between Brighton and Crystal Palace supporters set the ball rolling - and in the years since the charity has raised more than £100,000 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 of Queens, New York.

Closer to home a host of junior clubs have benefited from the charity’s fundraising, as has Coaching For Hope - a charity which uses football to support youngsters orphaned by the Aids epidemic in areas like Cambodia. That was given a £3,000 grant to help with its work.

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

That cash has paid for a specialist mini bus to help ferry players to and from games.

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.

I never knew Robert. I only know of him through the REMF. But, having been involved with the charity for the last few years I can say with all sincerity that the REMF is one of the best things connected with Brighton and Hove Albion and the club's supporters.

Two years ago 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.

So, like countless other Brighton fans, there will be a time tomorrow when my mind will turn to a fellow Albion supporter who I never had the pleasure of meeting but whose name will now never be forgotten.

Grief unites people - but so does sport and hope. 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 11 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment