At the click of a mouse, in a cyberworld made of
pixels, on a Web site where time stops, Tyler Ugolyn
He smiles at you.
On a computer screen.
"Yesterday was history,” his grandma says, the words
written in her loving script on Ugolyn’s still-active
personal Web site. "Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a
gift from God!”
Today, of course, turns out to be difficult for those
who knew the 23-year-old Ridgefield man who perished at
the World Trade Center. But even as Ugolyn’s parents,
Victor and Diane, and his many Ridgefield High School
and Columbia University friends pray for him, they have
another option. They can send a message express mail to
heaven with the touch of a button.
And so they do.
One year later, the Internet has found new purpose.
It is a shrine to the lost ones of Sept. 11. Most of the
Web sites are communal and include small biographies for
dozens of victims. Other people have their own sites for
tributes longer and more personal.
Tyler Ugolyn has two.
Log on to www.tylerugolyn.com, set up by friends in
his memory, and see a guest-book with no last page. It
is a solemn site with a gray background and a flowing
American flag. On Oct. 3, 2001, his brother said hi to
"T.Y. you’re my best friend in the world,” wrote
Trevor Ugolyn. "I will never care for anyone as much as
I care for you bro. Hope you’re visiting this site often
and reading the notes.”
People can address the onetime Ridgefield High
basketball co-captain and celebrate his college career
at Columbia University, his efforts at starting an
inner-city youth basketball league and his volunteer
work in a Harlem soup kitchen.
Lynnsey Eakin, a Ridgefield High classmate, needed
only a few words for her old friend on Aug. 7, 2002.
"Happy birthday Ty.”
They talk about him in the present. And why not? Go
to www.columbia.eda/~tvu2, and it never happened. He was
never on the 93rd floor, working as a research associate
for Fred Alger Management. The plane never came. The
towers never fell. The tears never flowed.
Time marches nowhere.
Tyler "just started this (Web page) the other day,”
he tells you. He is 6-foot 4, 205 pounds. He offers you
several color photos of his ‘92 Typhoon, a black SUV
with bulging rear tires. He offers you a "Car and
Driver” magazine review of Typhoons. He updates you on
an increasing array of performance upgrades to his car.
He tells you his license plate says "PHOON.”
He is not finished yet.
"Every waking moment I am at home, I am working on
this truck,” Tyler tells you. "More pictures are soon to
Kirk Cassels wishes that were so. He is one of many
people from various periods of Ugolyn’s life who talk to
Ugolyn now — by logging on.
"You may have left this earth, but you are alive and
well in my heart,” Cassels says in a Sept. 27 e-mail
entry in Ugolyn’s guest book. "Thinking about you every
day will help me do the right thing.”
Cassels and other friends agreed to continue their
online conversations about Tyler by exchanging e-mails
with a reporter.
"I had a dream once that I saw him in the distance
but could not run to him,” said Cassels. "And it
"There was another dream that was better. I was in a
crowded club, feeling stifled. As I pushed my way
through the crowd, I opened the doors and still did not
feel relief until I saw him, standing there, arms open
wide and big smile on his face.”
Cassels, who now lives on Long Island, was one of
Ugolyn’s good friends. They played tennis as kids,
graduated from Ridgefield High School together and hung
"I am jealous,” said Cassels, "of all those in Heaven
who are laughing it up with him and embracing him as we
This year, a cadre of college buddies made a
pilgrimage to the blackjack tables of Atlantic City, one
laugh short. They brought Ugolyn’s favorite shoes —
Italian leather loafers — with them. "As good luck,”
said Bill Brunner, 24, of Philadelphia.
In November, Brunner sent an e-mail to Ugolyn. In it,
he recalls meeting Ugolyn as a Columbia freshman in the
dorm where they both lived. He talks of their fun in
Atlantic City and Cancun.
"I apologize for not making it to your service, but
funerals for close friends were never easy in the past,
and you are no exception,” Brunner tells Ugolyn. "My
only regret is that I did not get a chance to know you
And Brunner says jokingly to his buffed,
basketball-playing friend, "hope you are still flexing
those biceps in the big gym upstairs.”
In her messages to her old friend, Kristina
Napolitano reminds Ugolyn of the nights out on the town
when they were Columbia freshmen. "Ty,” she says in a
March e-mail, "you’ll always be in my heart.”
Napolitano works in a building across from the World
Trade Center and ached when she learned Ugolyn had gone
to work that morning. Sometimes she looks out her
Manhattan window now, out into the emptier distance, at
what was once the Twin Towers.
"I think of Tyler,” she said. "He had this smile that
was phenomenal. It could light up a room.”
He is still smiling.
Just log on.