Columbia Mourns the Loss of a Son
How many people do you know? How many friends do
you have? How many groups, circles, or families do you belong to?
The world can be a big or a small place, depending on where we find
ourselves. But no matter how big and intimidating or small and
suffocating our environments may feel, it is always nice to know people.
A good friend or just a familiar face can change the way we feel about a
place or a time.
Sports can be an easy way to meet people. This is particularly true
on a college campus. I have met many people at Columbia through my
involvement with athletics, people I would not have otherwise known. I
have met people by covering sports for the Spectator, going to Columbia
sporting events, using the fitness center, and watching World Series
games at the West End or the Redskins games at AmCaf. I have also met
other students through intramural athletics.
Every year I put together a team for the spring intramural softball
season. The team always consists of my friends from school, and every
year we are horrible. Sophomore year I decided that I was going to bring
in some ringers to help fill out the roster and give us a better chance
of competing against the usual powerhouse teams from ZBT or Sigma Chi.
I thought about whom to call and finally decided on contacting Zack
Schiller. Zack was from Washington, D.C. and his father had coached my
recreational league basketball team. Zack had gone to my high school for
two years and had lived in my neighborhood, so I knew him pretty well.
It is also important to note that Zack played basketball for Columbia at
that time, was about 6'7", and weighed more than anyone I knew. I
figured if anyone could put a hurting on the old softball, it would be
But Zack did not come alone. Instead, he brought along one of his
best friends from Columbia, another former basketball player named Tyler
Ugolyn. Tyler was an inch or two shorter than Zack, but he was bigger,
and as it turned out, a lot more coordinated. Zack ended up hitting one
or two singles for our team, but his friend Tyler crushed a home run
that flew out of Morningside Park and gave us the win. Of course, we
invited them back for the rest of the season.
Starting with that experience, I got to know Tyler a little better.
We would have casual conversations on the street, play pick-up with Mike
Merley, Zack, Matt Hill, and others in the gym. I would see him at his
perch in the Heights or coming out of a job fair from Lerner, dressed to
I never became best friends with Tyler, but I became friendly with
him. His was a familiar face that would make my stops in KDR, Cannon's,
or countless other places just that much more comfortable.
When I first learned of the attack on the World Trade Center, I was
angered, upset, and worried. I felt compassion for the victims and
hatred toward the perpetrators, but everything was surreal. I never
cried, never really felt the earth move. I was not truly affected in an
immediate and personal way. But when I learned this weekend that Tyler
was working in the World Trade Center on Tuesday and that nobody has
seen him since the attack, everything became a lot more real. It was no
longer surreal, and I was directly affected.
Now the sports world is coming back to life, and another intramural
season will soon roll around. I look forward to the new group of people
I might meet and the group of people I will see once again, but it will
be different this time.
When I go to take the field, I will feel a little weird, a little
uncomfortable, a little lost. I know that something will be missing--a
giant guy with a huge smile, a loud laugh, and an uncanny ability to hit
game-winning home runs. The next time I go to the Heights, I will notice
that someone is missing from the bar. The next time I play pick-up at
Levien, I will know someone is not around to can three-pointers from two
feet behind the arch.
Tyler will be missed by everyone who ever met him or knew him.