Listen in as Barnet Sherman reflects on September 11th, capital market response, and doing the right thing.
The horrific images forever seared into our individual consciousness and the consciousness of the nation. For those of us who worked on Wall Street at that time, watching the collapse of the Twin Towers, where many of our friends and colleagues worked, made the events of that day even more poignant.
The financial markets reaction, in the days following September 11, received less focus, but remain important never-the-less. In the market I worked, the municipal bond market, investors gripped by irrational fear, were selling out their holdings by the billions. Causing the value of bonds, secured by America’s largest cities and public authorities, to plummet.
In this period of severe dislocation, there is also opportunity. An opportunity greater than just financial. Looking back on that day and days following, I offer my reflection here at that time of crisis. I often ask myself the same question, did we in the capital markets do the right thing?
Atop a picnic bench overlooking the neat rows of apple orchards, I sat watching the last bits of one of those early fall golden sunsets, settled behind the rolling Virginia hills. I took another bite of the apple and thought, “what a beautiful country we live in.” The next morning, I woke up early as I usually do on a business trip. At the time, I was with the firm Morgan Stanley. A Vice President and analyst to the firms high municipal bond mutual fund.
I was visiting with a Senior Living facility. The project was looking to fund an expansion and they were going to sell bonds to finance that. The meetings were not until 10:00 am that morning, so I had some time. I cleaned up. Got dressed and sat down at the desk in a hotel room. It was nice and quiet so I could focus on a quick read-through of the bond offering documents to refresh my memory. I settled in with a coffee and began skimming the pages. Then my phone rang.
It was my former wife imploring me between loud sobs to turn on the TV. I turned on the television and stared in disbelief. It was more like watching a Hollywood movie and not real life. My initial thought, like many, was that this was a terrible accident. Yet, feeling slightly numbed and unable to focus, I gave up reading and absentmindedly gathered up my things. By the time I reached the project, it was all too clear . . . our nation was under attack.
The Baby Boomer generation had never experienced a Pearl Harbor event. We had now. The world had forever changed.
The rest of the day was more than a bit surreal. Big screen televisions at the facility, showed in vivid color, the horrific images that would forever be in our memories of that day. The staff at the facility were very concerned the graphic content would upset the senior citizens, but there was nothing else being broadcast. Obviously business was the last thing on anyone’s mind.
The minister at the project offered a heartfelt prayer. People started calling family and were trying to figure out how they would get home. Some were headed to the airport to see if they could get flights out. This struck me as unproductive. The nation had just been attacked by highjacked planes. The first thing that was going to happen would be to be shut down the airports.
I had a car and a place to stay. I knew my family was safe. I figured to stay put was my best option. When I returned to the hotel I realized I did not have a change of clothing. This was supposed to be a quick overnighter so I had not packed anything. I got back into my car, the stores were closing, employees were being sent home. It took me a while to find a place that was still open.
Back in New York, people were dying. Families were losing parents, husbands were losing wives, wives were losing husbands, parents were losing their children. Here I am, trying to find an open store so I could buy a pair of underwear. I felt just awful. Returning to the hotel, I started calling everyone I knew in New York. Family, friends, colleagues. Morgan Stanley had offices in those towers. SOme of my fellow team members worked there. Fortunately, everyone I knew was safe and accounted for.
Audio from “Tenbar Creative – Episode 001 – A Reflection of September 11th”