A day before the 20th anniversary of September 11th, veteran trader Art Cashin reflected on Friday on the impact of the terrorist attacks on Wall Street, the country and himself.
A member of the NYSE since 1964, Cashin was in Lower Manhattan on the morning of September 11, 2001. It stayed in the stock exchange building all day even when the NYSE and Nasdaq did not open for trading, a rare occurrence because of the attacks.
Telephone service in Manhattan was badly affected that day, but those in Cashins' items somehow remained operational, he said Friday in CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" from the stock exchange, his first interview there since the Covid pandemic.
“The people rushed over. I had a line that looked like a movie theater with people from Merrill Lynch and the Exchange saying, 'Can I call my wife, please? I cannot reach my wife. Can I call my wife? "Said Cashin, who is now Director of Floor Operations at UBS Financial Services." I was here until the end "of the day.
Art Cashin on Squawk on the Street on NYSE September 10, 2021.
Eventually, 80-year-old Cashin recalled, he went out into the ash-filled streets of the financial district where the 110-story twin towers of the World Trade Center had collapsed into piles of burning rubble.
"I came out and there were a couple of guys wearing the same masks we wear for the pandemic now, catching envelopes, things that were money or cash out of the 80," said Cashin. "I was so mad. I started chasing one of them and my middle son Peter said to me, 'Dad, it's about getting home now. Forget these guys. They are rubbish. & # 39; "
Cashin said he still thinks of the nearly 3,000 people who died in the crash of the four hijacked planes in New York City, Washington, D.C. and killed in Pennsylvania. Most of the victims were in the twin towers.
“There were friends we lost. Friends you've lost, people who never had a chance to see their kids grow up, things like that. It was terribly dark, ”he said.
The US stock market remained closed until September 17, the longest shutdown since the Great Depression.
People took the return to work for the NYSE reopening as a declaration, Cashin said, a kind of patriotic defiance and strength. "After the Twin Towers collapsed, the stock market became the number 1 target in New York City," said Cashin, who is known for his daily analysis and deep understanding of market history.
Security on Wall Street is much stricter today than it was when Cashin started his career there in 1959 as an assistant at Thomson McKinnon. Lower Manhattan, in its broader sense, has gotten more livable in the two decades since September 11, which Cashin said was a welcome development and has made the area livelier.
But the weeks after the terrorist attacks were dark on and around Wall Street, he said, and that had little to do with market performance.
"We came in on a somewhat depressed mode for the next few weeks. Everyone was downcast," he said. "The only smiles south of Canal Street were the photos on the missing persons posters that families had put up to find people who had not come home."
Cashin said the 9/11 personal lessons apply to the current moment as New York City and the nation work to overcome the coronavirus.
"If we fix the vaccines and variants, hopefully life will go on," he said. “Humans are both sociable and optimistic animals, especially if you are American. Optimism is in the soul of this nation. So if you do a horrible thing like the 11th. & # 39; "