I Remember: Christopher Sean Caton
November 27, 1966 - September 11, 2001
Today is September 11, 2009 – eight years after 9/11/01 – and it almost seems like an eternity. The other night Jack and I were getting a bird's eye view of Manhattan on Google Earth. It wasn’t hard to see "the pit" amongst the tall buildings where the WTC towers once stood. I think everyone wants to fill that hole in the earth because they hope it might also fill the hole in their hearts. Today, over 2,900 families are thinking of the loved ones they kissed goodbye that morning and never saw again.
When I was assigned to remember Christopher Sean Caton, who was known to his friends as Sean, I immediately went online to see what I could find out about him. At first glance he's simply another name – one of thousands. But when I started reading about him – and mainly the tributes left by his friends – I could immediately tell this is a guy I would have really enjoyed knowing. Anyone who has ever had a Sean in their lives knows how it feels – not only is he the life of every party, but he's the guy who takes the time to remember a little something about the people he meets – and later when you see him again, you're pleasantly surprised that he remembers you too. His sister, Alison Henderson, summed it up in an article written about Sean after 9/11, "He always made an impression. People always remembered Sean Caton." Unfortunately, the bigger the impression, the bigger the hole in the hearts of those he left behind.
Christopher Sean Caton was born on November 27, 1966 and lived a short – but very full – 34 years. He grew up in Glen Rock, New Jersey, graduated from Glen Rock High School and then headed out west to Arizona, where he attended Arizona State University. His love of the city that never sleeps drew him back to Manhattan, where he got a job as a bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald, which was the same company where his father had worked.
Although he loved his work and the people, his real dream was to be a rock star. So every weekend he would head to the Jersey Shore and fulfill his dream, a Friday and Saturday night at a time. He might be at a bar when he’d grab a microphone, jump on stage and start singing (mostly Springsteen, REM, and various country tunes). He loved the limelight, and the people who surrounded him loved seeing him there, too.
Sean loved music from the time he was young. As a kid, his favorite band was KISS... then he mellowed out slightly and became one of Springsteen’s biggest fans. When his sister was interviewed by the New York Times for their tribute, she said she had found 35 ticket stubs to Springsteen concerts in his bedroom.
As a high school teenager – Sean did perform in his own band, which for some reason they called the Family Gopher. Friends remembered them performing grunge before grunge was cool. Where most kids might be satisfied to have a few rehearsals in the garage, Sean led his band in performing a benefit concert to raise thousands of dollars for treatments for a local girl who had leukemia.
Sean's favorite place during the summers was Manasquan on the Jersey Shore, where he and his friends rented a house. His guest book is full of memories from friends of their time with Sean at Leggett's bar, or on the beach, where he'd set up a boom box, greet his friends, and work on his killer tan, which only served to magnify his mega-watt smile. It was where he spent Labor Day weekend – his last – where he laughed, danced, sang, partied, and said goodbye to summer.
As I read through the tributes to Sean left by friends, I noticed all the nicknames people had for him – "Crazy Sean," "radio guy," "babycakes," or "the guy who is EVERYWHERE!" The story that made me laugh, though (aside from the tale of him being carried out of a bar by bouncers on July 4, waving 2 American flags), was "background picture guy." Sean earned this moniker by a woman he never knew, and who never knew him, simply because he was constantly in the background of pictures she would take of her friends in the bars in and around Manasquan. It was pure happenstance that a year after 9/11 she finally found out who he was and how he had died, and mourned the fact that the guy she never knew would never be in any of her pictures again.
Knowing all this about Sean makes it easy to think about what he was doing on that terrible day. He was proud of the view he had from his office on the 105th floor of One World Trade Center. It was a sunny day, and Sean was probably feeling good that morning. But since the first plane hit below his floor, there was no way out. He must have been terrified – but I also would bet everything that he was enveloping those around him in an embrace, assuring everyone not to worry, it would all be ok.
As terrible as Sean's death is, it's nice to see that his family and friends are remembering him through the Sean Caton Memorial Foundation. Taking a cue from Sean's high-school fundraiser, the foundation raises money for a variety of charities, but focuses on those that aid children with terminal illness and their families.
This year – just like the past seven years – there's a hole in Glen Rock, in Manasquan, and in New York City where Sean Caton used to be. I hope this tribute to Sean will fill at least a tenth of that hole, knowing that he's remembered today.
Sean, I hope you are in heaven doing what you always encouraged everyone else to do... "party on!"
Today, please take a few moments to visit Project 2,996 to read tributes to those who lost their lives that day.