Veteran trader Art Cashin reflected Friday on 9/11 and the impact the terrorist attacks 20 years ago had on him personally and on Wall Street.
Cashin, who has been a member of the NYSE since 1964, was in lower Manhattan on the morning of September 11, 2001. He stayed in the stock market all day, even though the NYSE and Nasdaq didn’t open for trading, a rare occurrence. because of the attacks.
Telephone service was severely disrupted in Manhattan that day, but those at Cashin’s station somehow remained operational, he said Friday on The Washington City Times’s “Squawk on the Street,” his first interview there since the Covid pandemic. .
“People were rushing. I had a line that looked like a movie theater with people from Merrill Lynch and the stock market saying, ‘Can I please give you the phone to call my wife? I can’t reach my wife.’ Can I call my wife?'” said Cashin, who is now director of Floor Operations for UBS Financial Services. “I was here to the end” of the day.
Finally, Cashin said he walked into the ash-filled streets of the Financial District, where the North and South towers of the World Trade Center were no longer 110 stories high.
“I came out and there were a bunch of guys wearing the same kind of masks we wear now for the pandemic, catching envelopes, things falling from the sky from the 80th floor of the World Trade Center and looking through the envelopes to see whether there was money or cash,” Cashin said. “I was so furious. I started going after one of them, and my middle son, Peter, said to me, ‘Dad, the point is now to go home. Forget those guys. They’re junk.'”
Cashin, 80, said he still thinks about the nearly 3,000 people who died when the four hijacked planes crashed in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. Most were killed in the attacks on the Twin Towers.
“There were friends we lost. Friends you lost, people who never got a chance to see their kids grow up, things like that. It was terribly bleak,” he said.
The US stock market remained closed until September 17, the most prolonged shutdown since the Great Depression.
People saw going back to work for the reopening of the NYSE as a statement, Cashin said, as a kind of patriotic defiance and strength. “After the collapse of the Twin Towers, the stock market became the No. 1 target in New York City,” said Cashin, who is known for his day-to-day analysis and in-depth knowledge of market history.
Security around Wall Street is much stricter now than when Cashin began his career there, in 1959 as an assistant clerk to Thomson McKinnon. Lower Manhattan, more broadly, has become more residential in the two decades since 9/11, which Cashin said was a welcome development and enhanced the area’s vibrancy.
But the weeks immediately following the terrorist attacks were dark on and around Wall Street, he said, and it had little to do with market performance.
“We went into a bit of a depressive mode over the next few weeks. Everyone was gloomy,” he said. “The only smile south of Canal Street was seen in the pictures on the missing persons posters that the families put up to find people who hadn’t come home.”
Cashin said personal lessons from 9/11 apply to the present moment as New York City and the nation work to overcome the coronavirus.
“If we get the vaccines and the variants back in order, hopefully life will go on,” he said. “Man is both a social and optimistic animal, especially if you are American. Optimism is the soul of this nation, so when you get something terrible like 9/11, you contract and say, ‘Okay, let’s move on .'”