At 25, everything was coming together for Todd Ouida. He had recently purchased his first car, was making plans to move out of his childhood home in River Edge, and had a burgeoning career as a currency trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, located on the 105th floor of One World Trade Center.
Herb Ouida, Todd’s father, was the executive vice president of the World Trade Centers Association—on the 77th floor of One World Trade Center.
On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, the elder Ouida decided to take the ferry. Todd headed for the train. “I said, ‘Have a great day, sweetheart.’ Those were my last words to him,” Herb recalls.
When American Airlines Flight 11 struck One World Trade Center, Herb escaped down a stairwell. Todd and 657 Cantor Fitzgerald colleagues did not make it out.
With the support of his family, Herb created the Todd Ouida Children’s Foundation in November 2001 to celebrate Todd’s life and his triumph over childhood anxiety.
Todd began suffering from anxiety attacks at the age of nine. The attacks kept him home from school; sometimes he was unable to get out of bed. Through intensive work with a therapist and the support of his family, Todd overcame his ailment.
The foundation offers financial support and psychological services to children of families in need, and works to raise awareness of and reduce the stigma surrounding anxiety and depression disorders in children. It has distributed more than $1.3 million in Todd’s name.
“Herb is an inspiration,” says Kathleen Mongon, director of development at the Youth Consultation Service (YCS), which receives support from the foundation. “He serves as a model on finding encouragement in tragedy and celebrating life.”
“I always used to tell the children that the secret of happiness is not in taking, it’s in giving,” says Herb.