Pleasantville, N.Y. Rob Fazio has two permanent reminders of his father, who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. One is a credit card, the only physical trace of him ever found. The other is this story:
Ronald Fazio Sr. worked on the 99th floor of the south tower, the second to be hit by a hijacked airliner. When the north tower was struck, Ronald Fazio held open a stairwell door and let all his colleagues flee before he did.
Ronald Fazio made it out of the south tower just as the jetliner slammed into it. He was killed by falling debris.
Now Rob Fazio, 29, of Closter, N.J., has started Hold the Door for Others, a nonprofit group designed to help people beset by grief and loss refocus their lives on positive ideas like optimism, humor, self-confidence and spirituality.
"This is something everyone can learn," he said. "Loss happens every day. What 9-11 did was give us the platform to deal with it."
On Saturday, Rob Fazio and a cadre of volunteers organized the first Hold the Door Day, designed to help Sept. 11 families cope with what will be lifelong grief.
Organizers distributed pamphlets and CD-ROMs and presented lectures on how to remain positive during intense grief, including simply sharing stories of loss with other people who are grieving.
"The power of being human is being able to relate," said Micah McCreary, a psychology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who delivered the keynote speech.
The activities were held at Pace University, a small commuter college north of New York City. Rob Fazio and a handful of his friends, all Pace graduates, set up the group in the weeks after Sept. 11.
Herb Ouida of River Edge, N.J., who started the Todd Ouida Children's Foundation in memory of his son, said Saturday the social work had helped him cope.
"I was very impressed by the name alone," he said of Rob Fazio's group. "I've found that helping people -- it's a very important part of the healing process."
Organizers limited reporters' access to other Sept. 11 families at the Hold the Door Day gathering, saying they were still sensitive about their loss.
Ronald Fazio Jr., Rob's brother, said the founders of Hold the Door wanted to make it a national, even international, organization. They want to expand their work to teach people how to deal with different kinds of loss -- not just from Sept. 11.
"You have to deal with the loss, but you have two choices," he said. "You can get sucked in, get depressed, or you can try and move forward. And that's what we're all about."