New York Times Portraits of Grief

Vanavah Thompson

It didn't matter whether he was alone in the shower, or riding a crowded subway; Vanavah Thompson would hum the reggae tunes that he so loved. A native of Guyana, he came to New York City with his mother and two sisters in 1989. He sported dreadlocks halfway down his back, and sometimes tucked them into a striped knit hat like his favorite musicians. Mr. Thompson, 26, was a maintenance worker at the World Trade Center. But at night, he would sing and dance his way through the clubs of Brooklyn and Queens. "I feel that wherever he is right now, he'll sing to himself to keep strong," said his sister, Tsahai Thompson. The one that he always sang, she said, began with the wistful line: "Remember the days when people on the East Side used to go on the West Side and live in peace."