New York Times Portraits of Grief

John White

For John White, life was all about helping. If a friend's bathroom pipes backed up, he soon arrived to fix them. If co-workers needed a 5 a.m. ride to work, he picked them up. If his supervisor needed him to stay until midnight on his job operating elevators at the World Trade Center, he unfailingly said yes.

Once, while he and some friends were painting the facade of a church in Brooklyn, an elderly driver crashed into some young toughs, who jumped out of their car and began pummeling the older man.

Mr. White and his friends ran over and pulled them off the driver, enraging them.

A half-hour later, the men returned with guns and started shooting, killing one of Mr. White's friends and hitting Mr. White.

"He still had a bullet in his spine," said Elsa McCaw, his sister.

"He was just a happy, good person," she said. "He was always ready to help. He's someone you want around if you're ever stuck somewhere."

Mr. White, 48, emigrated from Jamaica in 1973 and lived in Brooklyn. But his wife, Enid, disliked New York's cold, so she moved to Florida several years ago. The high points of his year were his three annual trips to Florida for a reunion with his wife and daughters, Maxine and Denise. "He was working at the trade center for 27 years, and he was seriously thinking of retiring and moving to Florida, maybe this winter," his sister said. "He missed his family very much."