Taking Time Out to Spend With 'Family'
a memorial service yesterday, Dean of Columbia College Austin Quigley
mentioned the "Columbia family." That got me thinking about my own
"Columbia family." It includes a variety of people from all walks of
life. Some are athletes, others are journalists, and the list goes on.
Whatever they are or do, there is still at least one common denominator
that links us together. They are part of my "family."
Tyler Ugolyn is one of these members. You could probably call him a
"cousin" in my "Columbia Family." We weren't best friends and didn't
hang out every day, but then again most cousins don't. He was two years
older than me, but always let me tag along with him and another "cousin"
of mine, Jon Krug. Though I haven't seen Tyler this year, what I
remember about him most is his great laugh and his constant smile. Tyler
was a genuinely nice guy.
Tyler was a basketball player for the Lions when he first arrived on
campus, but for a variety of reasons he did not continue with that
pursuit. He also worked at the gym, which is where I got to know him. He
used to use the supervisor's office as his personal lunchroom and would
tease the supervisor by calling her "babe."
After graduation, Tyler obtained a job in investment banking and went
to work every day in the World Trade Center. Last Tuesday, he arrived
there at seven in the morning and he has not been heard from since.
When a member of a family is lost, the whole family is affected, and
this time has been no different. Though none of us have lost hope that
we will hear from him, each passing day makes it harder. The pain and
suffering that I saw on Sunday at the campus-wide memorial service held
in remembrance of those lost in the tragedy is something I can't
describe or put on to paper. Though the sense of loss I am feeling is
immense, it is nothing compared to some of the others that were part of
his real family or immediate "Columbia family."
My "family" is obviously not the only one that was affected by
Tuesday's tragic events. The magnitude of the terrorist attack is almost
unfathomable. My mom pointed out to me that almost twice as many people
lost their lives in the attack as those who died at Pearl Harbor. None
of this all really hit me until Sunday's service, when I was finally
able to see the pain and hurt face to face.
It was seeing this pain and hurt that finally answered a debate that
had been going on in my head all week: whether or not sporting events
should go on this weekend. I wavered back and forth, usually concluding
that they should go on.
I was wrong.
Whether or not everyone realizes it, the decision to cancel all
events was not only a good one but also the correct one. This week has
been a time to be with one's family, whether at Columbia or at home. It
has been a time to console, to remember, and to help one another via
volunteering, giving blood, or just talking to any of the many people
that are hurting.
Sporting events would have made this more difficult. Sure, one could
have slipped off into another world for a few hours whether it was by
playing in a game or cheering for a favorite team, but we shouldn't slip
off to anywhere right now. We need to face what has happened and try to
understand it. We can't escape it, so we must cope with it.
If sporting events had gone on, it would have made the healing
process more of a struggle. The Columbia volleyball team was scheduled
to have a weekend-long tournament. At least one of the volleyball
players who I know of used the extra time she had on Saturday to be with
one of Tyler's close friends whom had understandably been struggling
with the possible loss. I am sure she was not the only one that found a
way to help in the extra time that she had. I can't help but think that
millions of athletes across the nation did something special this week
or weekend with the time that they would have spent on their respective
I don't fault those who thought that the show should go on. I agreed
with them for quite some time, but hindsight is 20/20 and I am seeing
clearer now. Athletes are in a world that is supposed to be stoic and
sometimes they do not listen when their body or hearts tell them to
stop. I think that the cancellation of games over the course of last
week and this weekend allowed athletes to do what they needed to do.
What they needed to do was to be with their "families."