THE 1,100 invitations have been sent. Many of the
prizes for the silent auction are stacked in the center of their son's
old bedroom in the comfortable Tudor-style house on Clarendon Court
where for several years he struggled with the anxiety attacks that kept
him out of school.
So far, 250 people have said they will attend the
second annual Todd Ouida Birthday Celebration. Most will be family members
and friends who recall how he triumphed over panic disorder. But others
will be people who did not know him -- but who also suffered the loss
of a loved one the day the World Trade Center came crashing down.
''It's really important to us they come,'' says Todd's
father, Herbert Ouida, ''because in a way we share
with each other and support each other.''
Offering support, emotional and financial, is what the
event next Sunday is all about. Aside from being an
opportunity to ''celebrate'' Todd Ouida's life, it is also
a fund-raiser for the Todd Ouida Children's
Foundation, which has distributed $350,000 to
organizations that offer psychological services for children
of needy families.
The foundation is one of a number of such organizations
that families and friends organized after Sept. 11,
2001, in memory of lost family members and friends.
The family of Scott Hazelcorn, 29, a trader of long-term
Treasury bonds at Cantor Fitzgerald, created a
foundation that sponsors a week-long summer camp for
children who lost a loved one in the attack. The
family and friends of Christopher Ingrassia, 28, a trader
who played football at Princeton, started a
foundation at the university and holds an annual charity
Last year, the first Todd Quida birthday event, which
raised $40,000, took place in nearby Oradell on
the grounds of River Dell Regional High School, where the
energetic 5-foot-5 boy was a defensive back
on the varsity football team. This year it will be held at
the Spring Lake Day Camp in Ringwood, where
as a teenager Todd Ouida was a lifeguard and his older
sister, Amy, and older brother, Jordan, were
Each day, Todd and Herbert Ouida traveled together to the
north tower of the World Trade Center,
where the son was a foreign currency option trader for
Cantor and the father was executive vice
president of the World Trade Centers Association.
On Sept. 11, when the building shook, the elder Mr. Ouida
did not know a plane had smashed into it,
but he remembered his experience in the 1993 terrorist
bombing and hurried to the stairs. It took an hour
to descend 78 floors.
As he did, his son was trapped on the 105th floor, cut off
by tangled steel, collapsed stairwells and
intense flames. Whether Todd Ouida knew that he had no
hope of escape when he called his mother,
Andrea, will never be known, but he told her he had talked
to his father, who was all right.
''He hadn't spoken to me,'' Mr. Ouida now says, ''but he
was trying to comfort her.''
Todd was 25. At a memorial service at the Central
Unitarian Church in Paramus, people asked where
they could make donations in his name. The idea for a
nonprofit, charitable, tax-deductible foundation
took root. The Ouidas then arranged for the nonprofit
Community Foundation of New Jersey in
Morristown to administer the fund.
Mrs. Ouida, who retired as director of the River Vale
Library in April 2001, spent time on foundation
business and responding to shopping bags full of notes of
condolence. Mr. Ouida retired last December
to give the organization his full attention.
''The truth is, we have to do this, as much for ourselves
as for the people we're helping,'' he said one
recent morning, as he and his wife sat at the dining room
table that serves as the foundation office. ''And
when people respond to us, it's almost like they're
responding to Todd. Because they're responding to
what we're saying about his life and what we're doing in
For those who created them, the foundations have taken on
layers of significance.
''You feel a strong connection to the person you lost,
because the essence of who they were is living on
through the good you do for people,'' said Janice
Hazelcorn of Berkeley Heights, Scott's mother and now
executive director of the Scott Hazelcorn Memorial
The foundation created Camp Haze, a one-week program that
was attended last summer by 47 children
who lost loved ones in the terrorist attack. This year,
she hopes about 75 children will attend the camp, in
Monticello, N.Y., from Aug. 18 to 24.
Gloria Ingrassia of Watchung said she sees the Christopher
N. Ingrassia Memorial Organization named
after her son as a chance ''to do something constructive,
to have something positive come out of the most
Two former classmates from Princeton suggested the idea of
a foundation and organized the Chris
Classic, a golf outing last year, which, according to one
of them, Dennis O'Dowd, raised $40,000.
Specifics for this year's tourney have to be worked out.
Todd's foundation has made donations to both
organizations. In fact, Christopher Ingrassia, a close friend
of Todd's brother, Jordan, stayed with him briefly when
both men worked in the London office of Cantor
Fitzgerald. Last June, Jordan and his wife named their
newborn son Christopher Todd.
Mrs Hazelcorn said time spent on foundation work took the
mind off the pain of loss. ''The more you can
focus on something positive, you get through the day
better,'' she said.
Not everyone feels that way, however. Andrea Ouida said of
her foundation work: ''It's important to me
but I feel sometimes that it's very difficult to spend so
much time on something that's about having lost
Todd. And I feel sometimes that I need to do something
else that's not focused on Todd.''
Mr. Ouida sees it as fighting evil with good. ''There has
to be more than a military answer to Sept. 11,''
he said. ''You have to meet the evil, I think, with acts
of generosity and love. Otherwise, what kind of
world is it when it's over.''
Love and generosity are what saved Todd, they say, as he
overcame the panic attacks that began in the
fourth grade and lasted through the sixth.
He said in his application to the University of Michigan
that he awoke one day afraid to go to school.
''My stomach was tight,'' he wrote. ''And I, for a reason
that will most likely never be explained, was
A psychiatrist treated him with medication. After a year
the family turned to Dr. Nathaniel Donson, a
child psychiatrist in Englewood. The school provided
tutoring and a reduced class schedule and,
eventually, he was able to begin middle school.
''I realized that the time a person wants to give up is
the time when it is imperative for that person to fight
the hardest,'' Todd wrote. ''I learned that with family, a
person can overcome anything.''
He graduated from Michigan with a major in psychology. The
Ouida foundation donated $250,000 in his
name to the university's medical school for research in
childhood anxiety and depression. It has also made
donations to a score of local and national organizations
that include as the Association for Child
Psychoanalysis and the Children's Aid and Family Services.
Dr. Donson said the Ouidas have been extraordinary, both
in having supported Todd through the
disruption of his illness at great financial and emotional
expense and in setting up a foundation personifying
someone who overcame adversity with a ''sense of purpose
and spirit of generosity.''
''This memory of his overcoming his malady sort of sets
the stage for this particular foundation to help
children,'' Dr. Donson said, ''It shows that there's a
wonderful outcome that's possible or a wonderful
way of proceeding through this tragedy, of mastering this
just as Todd mastered his anxiety.''
Images: Photos: Herbert and Andrea Ouida created a
foundation in memory of their son, Todd, below,
who died in the World Trade Center attack. (Marilynn K.
Yee/The New York Times)
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company