Readers Reflect and Commentate: “Is a Building Going to Fall on Me?”

By Andrea and Herb Ouida

We are the grateful grandparents of five grandchildren, ages 10-17, whom we adore. The oldest, our only granddaughter, was our son Todd’s godchild. She is the only one to have been held by Uncle Todd, whom we lost at the age of 25 in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. Her first birthday came 12 days after the tragedy.

Todd Joseph Ouida
Holding his niece

Our surviving son and daughter and their spouses have been confronted with the difficult task of when and how to share this devastating family story with their children. The children grew up hearing many stories about Uncle Todd, a beloved member of the family.

In addition, we have established the Todd Ouida Children’s Foundation in Todd’s memory and that is an important part of our lives. Our son, an Ironman triathlete, honors his brother Todd by wearing the foundation’s logo on all his apparel.

As the children were old enough to hear about a plane crashing into the building, causing it to collapse, each family approached the telling in a different manner. Our daughter called it an accident and our son admitted that some bad people had done it. Our task was to take our cues from the children’s parents and, if questions arose, honor each family’s telling. If one of the children asked, “Is a building going to fall on me?” all of the adults adamantly reassured the children that they were safe.

What lessons have the grandchildren learned?

First of all, every member of this family is cherished.

Secondly, every tragedy or act of evil can be met with an act of goodness.
Third, because Todd suffered from anxiety as a child, the foundation provides support for children with anxiety and depression and promotes mental health for all children. Our grandchildren have learned the importance of mental health and removing the stigma surrounding mental illness.

As appropriate, they have engaged in our work, and they can see how their beloved uncle lives on in the lives of the many children he has helped.

He will always be “Uncle Todd” to the grandchildren and extended family

Closing words from Dr. Gramma Karen

I knew Todd.

I am profoundly sad that the grandchildren my husband Gary and I share with Andrea and Herb do not get to have Uncle Todd in their lives. Not a day goes by that I don’t join Todd’s family and friends in missing him.

I continue to be inspired by what Todd wrote in his application to his alma mater, the University of Michigan. His message is, well, so Todd.

“Many people have life-changing experiences every day, and they don’t even know it. My life-changing experience lasted two and a half years, and I remember it vividly. Am I lucky? Maybe. I suffered for two and a half years, but in those two and a half years I learned more than most people learn in a lifetime. 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. I learned that with family a person can overcome anything. And I discovered no matter how big the person is on the outside (for I am only 5′ 5” tall) that the size of the heart is always going to be more important.”

There is a lot of heart in this family and that is why Uncle Todd will always be honored and remembered.

Ask Dr. Gramma Karen is published every other Tuesday.
E-mail queries to [email protected].

Karen L. Rancourt’s most recent book is,
Ask Dr. Gramma Karen, Volume II: Savvy Advice to Soothe Parent-Grandparent Conflicts.

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3 thoughts on “Readers Reflect and Commentate: “Is a Building Going to Fall on Me?”

  1. Unfortunately, many only appreciate that which they have lost. This story reminds us not to let one valuable second pass without thanks.

  2. this is lovely….i am so glad i got to know more about todd……as you know…..i read about him at the museum…..those kids are fortunate to have so many of you around and close to them

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