New York Times Portraits of Grief

Joseph Trombino

Three people were killed in the 1981 Brink's robbery in Nanuet, N.Y., and Joseph Trombino barely escaped being the fourth. Shot in the shoulder, his left arm hung on by only a thread. It was sewn back on in three operations.

He returned to work as an armed guard two years later. "He'd done that for so long," said his wife, Jean, "it was like he didn't know what else to do."

Joseph never spoke about the danger involved in his job. In 1993, he had been making deliveries to the World Trade Center just hours before it was bombed. A close call, but after the 1981 robbery, close calls didn't really count.

Now 68, he was at last planning to retire in a year or so, his wife said. But on Tuesday, as ever, he was up at 2:30 a.m. and out by 3:30 a.m., to make it to work in Brooklyn by 5 a.m. A little after 9 a.m., he was waiting in the armored truck in the basement of the trade center for his three fellow guards to return from the 11th floor. They made it to safety. Joseph called into Brink's from a pay phone, his wife said, to say a policeman had told him to move the truck. The building was shaking and water was cascading down, Joseph said, before the line went dead.