First let me tell you why I decided to review this book. When I first got the email asking if I wanted to review this book I thought “No. I’m not an investor, I get my tax return and put it in my savings. I don’t know the difference between a stock and a bond. Is there a difference between a stock and a bond?” Interestingly, these are the reasons I decided to read the book. I thought this could be the ultimate test, if someone who thinks it was a great accomplishment to find the ‘lost’ penny in her checking account could understand it, that would be worth writing about.
Now that I have finished reading this book, I still don’t know the difference between a stock and a bond, or if there even is one, but the purpose of this book is not to teach that, its to show us how a horrific act of terrorism by some evil people almost brought about the collapse of the United States financial system.
Through interviews with people that were there he relates the physical events of 9/11, the reactions of people in the towers, how the entire staff of Cantor Fitzgerald (their offices were on floors 101, 103, 104, and 105 of the North Tower, just below the Windows on the World restaurant) died, more than any other organization that day. The thoughts of the people evacuating the building passing the firemen were walking up, who had no idea what they were walking into and didn’t make it back out. How the hospitals cleared their emergency rooms and waited for injured people that never came.
“Our people ran out of the Trade Center without a pencil. No trade records. No tickets. The business that we did in the North Tower we backed up in the South Tower, and vice versa. We didn’t know where to go the next morning. Or even if there was a firm left.” — Ron Purpora, senior executive of Garban Securities LLC
The main focus of this book is the effect that the sudden lose of manpower, telecommunications and records from just that mornings business effected the U.S. Financial markets. Included in these are the U.S. Government securities market, the American Stock Exchange, the New York Board of Trade, and the New York Mercantile Exchange. At the time no one even knew how much damage had been done.
Mr. Ingber takes us step by step through the events of the day, why so much information was lost and the efforts that needed to be made to recover it, or in some cases recreate it. A lot of the reconciling had to be done by hand, by exhausted people who had recently suffered a great trauma. Yet they did it. Brokerages that were rivals (remember this is a business that could be described as cut-throat) helped each other. “You would have done the same thing for us. It’s the right thing to do.” He then takes us through the reopening of the markets and problems involved in that. He talks about the recovery and the changes made to prevent another crisis like this and how these events affected some of the people involved on a personal level. An interesting fact is that “of the 1,134 companies displaced by the Trade Center attacks, only a little more than 25 percent returned to lower Manhattan.” Many of these were in the financial sector.
While there was a lot I didn’t understand, Chapter 5 How the Modern Govie Market Developed, was a waste of time for me to read it. Not that anyone should skip it because I didn’t understand it, it may help others understand the full extent of the crisis. I don’t think it made much of difference in my case. I felt this is a very well written book, the narrative flows and you really get a feel for the events. Even though there are many expressions that may not be familiar to all readers, Mr. Ingber does his best to explain these, in some cases he has provided illustrations.
I would recommend this book to people interested in reading about 9/11, the history of Wall Street and the City of New York.