Editor's note: For the updated look at all eight victims, click here.
Educator, helper, giver
When the news reached Derrick Griffith, a dean at nearby Medgar Evers College, he sprang into action.
Griffith bought food and began cooking. He called a contact at the electrical company and arranged to restore her power. Through a school emergency fund for struggling students, he got her some cash.
The next day, Griffith and others delivered a turkey dinner to the young woman and her family.
"When people get down on themselves ... it takes somebody from the outside to come into their life and remove that weight," said Rudy Crew, president of Medgar Evers College. "Derrick was the person to do that, and he did it with such joy."
In college, Griffith was a single father to his son, Darryus, but found time to serve two terms as student body president at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He and his friend Mitch Miles spent many afternoons talking about student government over chicken sandwiches and waffle fries at the local Chick-fil-A, Miles said.
Griffith, 42, later got a master's degree in counseling and human development from the University of Rochester and was set to receive his doctorate in urban education from the CUNY Graduate Center this month, Crew said.
In 2003, he founded the CUNY Preparatory High School and had been an executive directory of an organization for young people in Brooklyn, where he grew up — and he loved to help others.
After her Thanksgiving feast four or five years ago, Crew said, the young woman came to the college to sign up for classes.
Semesters later, Griffith watched her graduate. — Justine McDaniel
Making a difference
Dressed in uniform, Zemser was overflowing with excitement about the year - his second - at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he played on the sprint football team. It struck Richards that the neighborhood boy he had hired as intern a few years earlier had become a man.
The visit wasn't unusual. On breaks from the academy in Annapolis, Md., the 20-year-old midshipman routinely stopped by Richards' office and would invariably volunteer for a community task - such as helping run down complaints about housing or road issues for residents.
Hurricane Sandy had devastated his community. Zemser's desire to make a difference only became stronger.
On a bookshelf in his City Hall office sits a photo of Richards, Zemser, and another intern. It is a reminder of a young person who learned to solve community issues, Richards said.
Before the visit ended that December day, Zemser asked if Richards would have more work for him this summer.
"He wasn't even looking for money. He just wanted to come back and make a difference," Richards said. - Justine McDaniel
An architect of smiles
It was the annual bring-your-child-to-work day this spring at the Cranbury, N.J., office of the Associated Press. As he did every year, Gaines had organized the event, arranging speakers and activities.
But when he saw the smallest children losing interest, he gathered them and took them outside - where he had a large bubble-making machine waiting.
"He had a bigger smile on his face than the kids," colleague Paul Caluori recalled.
At the AP, Gaines was a video software architect, a significant player in the news service's video efforts. In 2012 he won an in-house "Geek of the Month' award for his "tireless dedication and contagious passion."
Gaines, 48, was married with a 16-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter. He was on his way home to Plainsboro, N.J., after attending meetings in the agency's Washington office when the train derailed.
Gaines "had become a cornerstone of what AP does on the video front," said Caluori. But he was even more than that.
"The real story about Jim is what an incredible person he was," Caluori said. - Rita Giordano
Abid Gilani was born in Asia; his wife, Diane, in North America.
And yet they were perfect together - and with a son and daughter built a tight-knit family just outside Washington.
"They were clearly . . . very dedicated" to their family, said Norma Allewell, who lives next to them in Rockville, Md.
Both had ties to Canada, though their neighbor couldn't be sure if that's where they met.
He went to Laurentian University in Ontario, started his career there, and then spent nearly eight years with Marriott. Last week he spoke at a Toronto investment conference. His wife hails from Ontario, according to Allewell.
Last year, Abid Gilani, 55, took a job as a senior vice president for Wells Fargo. He worked in the bank's commercial real-estate division, a company spokeswoman said, and split his time between Washington and New York City, the bookend destinations on Train 188's path.
"His work was often on his mind," said his neighbor, "but he was a lovely man." - Justine McDaniel.
New York was home and Philadelphia is where the 39-year-old just started working as the new CEO of ApprenNet, an online learning start-up.
But Detroit was where Jacob's heart was.
She grew up in a Detroit suburb, the daughter of a former Michigan state senator. In 2009, she started Detroit Nation, a group of former residents eager to boost economic development and cultural innovation there. Last September, she returned to the beleaguered city for a "homecoming" with other expats.
"Detroit doesn't need ideas," she told an interviewer at the time. "It has phenomenal ideas. It needs doers."
She was a doer.
"Imagine the kind of person you'd let run the thing you created," said colleague Karl Okamato, a cofounder of ApprenNet. "She's a leader." - Angelo Fichera and Alfred Lubrano