The job that had Jim Lovell on the early train to Manhattan was to bring the quintessential postcard scene of New York at the holidays — the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree — to the rest of the country.
He was an audio technician, headed to help set up for the television broadcast of the tree lighting this week, when his commuter train jumped the tracks at a perilous bend in the Bronx in the first light of Sunday morning, killing him and three other passengers.
“Jim was a friendly and welcome presence around here,” Matt Lauer said Monday on TODAY. “He was also an enormously talented guy who always did his job with grace, even under extreme pressure.”
His son, Finn, put it more intimately in a post late Sunday on Instagram: “It’s safe to say he molded me into the man I am today,” he wrote. “This feels like an awful nightmare that I can’t wake up from. Rest easy dad. I love you.”
Lovell, 58, of the Hudson River town of Cold Spring, was remembered for a quick smile and a ready hello. He worked on some of the high-profile concerts staged by TODAY on Rockefeller Plaza, and frequently worked on other NBC programs.
The other victims of the crash were identified as Donna Smith, 54, of Newburgh, N.Y.; James Ferrari, 59, of Montrose, N.Y.; and Ahn Kisook, 35, of the New York borough of Queens.
The derailment of the train, the 5:54 a.m. run from Poughkeepsie to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, injured at least 63 people. Investigators on Monday were planning to examine a data recorder for clues.
Smith was remembered by friends and neighbors as a dedicated member of her community who worked two jobs, enjoyed traveling with her sister and gave up free time to help young people.
She took pride in charity races. For a time this summer, she had changed her Facebook profile picture to the pink-ribbon logo of the American Cancer Society’s “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” campaign.
“She was very giving, very giving and loving, and she cared about people,” Kathy Cerone, who lived next to Smith for more than a decade in Newburgh, told NBC New York. “She cared. And she was a good friend and a good neighbor.”
One of her bosses, Maureen Crush of the law firm de Ramon Crush, where Smith worked as a paralegal, told The New York Times that Smith was making plans for a cruise, was renovating her house and was the happiest Crush had seen her.
Ahn worked nights as a nurse at a home for disabled children in the New York suburb of Ossining. She was on the train Sunday after working overnight, according to the facility, Sunshine Children’s Home & Rehab Center.
Linda Masiello, an administrator there, said that the other nurses were devastated to learn of Ahn's death.
Ahn had also worked as a nurse at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn. She posted pictures to her Facebook account this summer of a trip to Philadelphia, including the Museum of Art there and the University of Pennsylvania nursing school.
She also posted a picture of a little girl, Abigail, holding a breathing tube and added a caption encouraging the girl to get well soon.
A neighbor of Ferrari’s, Angela Connolly, told The Times that he was “a very kind person, a hard worker.”