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George Chamberlin's Money in the Morning

Remembering. Regardless of whether the stock market is up or down today, it is the haunting memory of the events 14 years ago that will be top of mind. The deadly terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. are a vivid memory for those of us who were around on Sept. 11, 2001.


Personally, I was in the radio studio at KOGO getting ready to do a report on what to expect when trading begins on the NYSE. Then the video of a gash at the top of one of the twin towers at the World Trade Center were being broadcast. The general thought was how strange it would be that a plane would hit the WTC on such a bright, clear day. All questions were answered a few minutes later when the shadow of another plane slid across the TV screens and into the second tower. At that moment the world changed forever.

Of the many things I remember from that is the massive size of the WTC. For many, the towers just appeared to be a couple of tall buildings. In fact the square footage of the office space in the towers was more than the total square footage of all office buildings in the entire San Diego County.

I cannot think back to 9/11 and not remember Howard Lutnick. At the time he was the CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, a Wall Street clearing firm with office space at the top five floors of One World Trade Center, the north tower. On any other day he would have been at work but on 9/11 he was taking his son to his first day of kindergarten and was not in the building when the plane hit. At the time Cantor had about 900 employees and 658 died that day, including Lutnick's brother. The next day he appeared with Larry King and his emotions poured out. He did not have any money to pay the families of his employees but vowed he would take care of them for at least five years, dedicating 25 percent of profits to the families, and pay their health insurance for 10 years. He honored that commitment.

Trading on the NYSE never opened, obviously, on 9/11, a Tuesday, and the markets did not re-open until the following Monday. Even then it was amazing they were able to get things up and working in such a short time. As you might imagine, the markets were hit with a sea of sell orders, driving the Dow industrials down by more than 7 percent, a loss of 684 points, to 8,878. The selling continued through the week, ending with a decline of 14 percent.

Like a moth to a flame, I am drawn to the memories of that day. I visited ground zero a couple of years after the attack and remember how emotionally limp it made me to be in the presence of the events.

Never forget.

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