I was asleep uptown at Columbia University when the towers went down. My friends woke me up, and we watched in shock and horror from my 10th story window as a huge dust and smoke cloud seemed to be creeping slowly over the city. We felt helpless watching the news or glancing out the window and decided it would be best to try and donate blood. The line to donate was so long that we were only put on a list and turned away as the hospitals couldn’t handle the huge outpouring of donations. I couldn’t just stay in my room. One of my good friends who had graduated in May from Columbia, an incredible guy named Tyler Ugolyn had worked on the 93rd floor of Tower One and no one had heard from him yet. I decided, with all my nervous energy, to take a walk. Only my walk brought me and two of my friends all the way down to a few blocks from Ground Zero. The walk from 116th all the way downtown felt like it took no time at all since all of us felt like we were sleepwalking anyway in a world we no longer understood. We got there just as Tower 7 caught fire, and we stayed until it fell. We then walked until we found an uptown bound train and took it back to school. I don’t know anyone who slept that night.
The next day I decided to make the rounds at the hospital searching for Tyler’s name on any of the injured lists. I broke down crying more than a few times while riding my bike ( as most of the trains in the areas around the hospitals still weren’t running.) Time after time I was told that his name wasn’t yet listed anywhere among injured or deceased, and exhaused as I was, I kept looking. I took comfort in the fact that they hadn’t confirmed he was deceased. As the days passed, however, we all gradually lost hope that Tyler was still alive. His body has not been found.
It seems that things that have returned to normal for most. I listen to people on campus griping about midterms the same way they always have in the four years I’ve been here. We celebrate friends’ birthdays. We laugh again. However that day and the months of torment that ensued stay close to the surface, and I don’t believe it will EVER be forgotten. Whenever one of us proposes a toast we always order a drink or leave a chair for where Ty might have sat and we laugh…but we remember.