Market Thinking

making sense of the narrative

20 Years ago

Like a lot of people over a certain age, I remember exactly where I was this day 20 years ago, on the trading floor of Commerzbank Securities in London, having interrupted preparations for a delayed marketing trip to New York when one of the traders called out that a plane had hit the World Trade Centre. We all then watched disbelieving as the second one hit live on TV and while none of us knew what was happening, we knew it was bad. But for many of us the really shocking part came almost an hour later, when the whole building of Tower 2 (actually the second one to be hit) collapsed in on itself, followed by Tower 1 half an hour after that. The Twin Towers had gone.

There is a well known phenomenon that our memories of events change over time (indeed memories of 9/11 are widely cited in studies about this), so one hesitates a little, but two things stand out for me. First, the personal shock that the delayed marketing trip I had been putting together the documents for that morning was originally scheduled for that week, that day. I would have been there. Back then, the traffic going downtown mid morning was always bad, so we always started the day of meetings downtown at the World Trade Centre and worked our way uptown. We all have a tendency to put ourselves into ‘the movie in our own head’, but the likelihood would have been that flying Monday from the UK, on that Tuesday morning I would have followed the usual plan and been either with Morgan Stanley in Tower One or American Express in Tower 7. Incidentally, a somewhat overlooked fact today is that Tower 7 also collapsed in on itself around 5.30pm, almost seven hours after Tower 1.

The second thing that stands out in my memory though is the comment the following day from my colleague on the Bond side, a fine gentleman call Bob Gay. By then we were all getting a sense that the world had shifted on its axis, but Bob’s words still stick with me. He lived up in Connecticut and when I asked if he was doing OK, he said that he was but that it was hard, and added quite simply of his small suburb “ A lot of moms and Dads didn’t come home last night.”


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