My daughter Casey is 8. She’s a pretty mature kid who has clearly spent a decent chunk of time thinking about life and death and religion. Every so often she’ll stop what she’s doing and say something akin to, “You know why there can’t be a God, Dad …”
I’ll just listen, impressed by the workings of her brain.
Anyhow, back in the days after September 11, 2001, I wrote a piece for Sports Illustrated about Tyler Ugolyn, a 23-year-old former Columbia University basketball player. The one-page article ran in the ensuing issue, and remains—without much debate—the most personally impactful thing I’ve written. Here’s the link.
I kept in regular touch with Tyler’s family, and formed a close bond. In 2003, when my wife was due with our first child, I mentioned to Victor, Tyler’s dad, that our due date was August 7. He got very excited and wrote, “That’s Tyler’s birthday!” At that moment, the wife and I decided that, were our daughter to be born August 7, she would be Tyler—no ifs, ands or buts.
Alas, she was born on July 31.
I’ve told Casey many times that she was nearly Tyler, but I’ve never told her why. As far as she’s concerned, the World Trade Center never existed; the jets never crashed; the worst day in modern American history never happened. She’s ignorant, because we—purposefully—haven’t told her. Why? She was too young, too precious, too delicate.
Now, as the 10th anniversary approaches, I think it’s time.
I want Casey to know what happened. I want her to understand, and empathy, and appreciate. I don’t think she needs to fear flying, or fear anything. But I believe she needs to know.
About the horrible day.
About the remarkable aftermath.
About Tyler Ugolyn, and the name she nearly took.