After Sept. 11, 2001, Donato Tramuto said he spent weeks trying to understand why he was alive and his friends were not.
Tramuto had a ticket to fly out on United Airlines Flight 175 that morning, along with his friends Ron Gamboa and Daniel Brandhorst and their son, David Gamboa-Brandhorst, 3.
But a toothache for Tramuto meant a detour to his dentist on the way from his home in Ogunquit to Logan International Airport. He switched his reservation to a later flight, missing the one that terrorists crashed into the second tower of the World Trade Center in New York.
“It was a devastating moment for me,” said Tramuto, who owns two restaurants in Ogunquit and is chairman of the Board of Selectmen. “I tried, in the weeks after, to sort out why my life had been saved and why their lives had been lost.”
While Tramuto couldn’t answer the latter question, he decided that the answer to the former was that he needed to do more than be a successful businessman.
So he established the Donato J. Tramuto Foundation which, Saturday night, marked its 10th anniversary.
The occasion was highlighted with a fundraising dinner at the Beachmere Inn in Ogunquit. Awards and grants were presented to the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights; Mary Jane England, president of Regis College and a leader in international human rights efforts; the Maine-based Iris Center, which helps the visually impaired; and the Ogunquit Playhouse, which is installing devices so those with hearing problems can hear its shows. Kerry Kennedy, a daughter of Robert F. Kennedy, and Joseph P. Kennedy III, an assistant district attorney for Middlesex County, Mass., and grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, were on hand to accept the award for the RFK Center.
Tramuto is the head of Physicians Interactive Holdings, a health care technology company. He also owns Five-Oh and Cafe Prego, two restaurants in Ogunquit.
Tramuto noted that last week his company announced the Health eVillages initiative, which will work with the Kennedy Center to donate iPhones and iPads to doctors and nurses working in remote areas or places affected by natural disasters.
The devices will be loaded with medical reference materials, he said, such as medical dictionaries and dosing calculators.
Tramuto said the foundation gives out scholarships in the Ogunquit-Wells school system and in Dunkirk-Fredonia, N.Y., where he grew up, and taught English to an entire village in Cambodia to help raise the standard of living there.
The foundation has also provided grants to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
“It’s a great tribute to my friends, a great tribute to what I believe in and it’s about doing small things that do big things,” he said.
Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: