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1/ I'm walking around lower Manhattan half lost. I know what I'm looking for - it's close, but coming out of the subway has me turned around. I've never been here before, it's literally my first time in New York City...

It's October 19th, 1987. I'm 18 years-old.
2/ What I'm looking for is the New York Stock Exchange. After nurturing dreams all through high school of working on "Wall St," my aim - of all things - is just to see the NYSE. Now that I'm here, it's all I can think about.
3/ Still confused, I'm lured to the WTC mainly because it's famous. I recognize it from TV/movies, and my adolescent mind infers a connection to the stock market b/c of the famous Comex scene in Trading Places. I don't yet understand commodities & stocks have different exchanges.
4/ In the plaza between the twin towers (I keep looking up) I ask a hurried stranger in a dark suit for directions. He sets me straight. And of course, I'm impressed when I finally see the street sign on the corner of Wall & Broadway. It had been an idea, now it was a real place.
5/ Back then there was a small museum and visitors gallery upstairs at the NYSE. The entrance, around the corner on Broad St., had a line that morning, which didn't strike me as unusual. I bought a ticket and took my place in it. The market had just opened.
6/ People often forget that the market had corrected 9% in the previous week. So it was a nail-biter open that Monday morning. Many of the specialists were late to open their stocks. Almost 100 names, making up 30% of the S&P's market cap, was delayed for an hour.
7/ Once upstairs, I momentarily circle some of the historical displays, but quickly make my way to the gallery that overlooked the trading floor. It was narrow and dark, with a glass partition separating the balcony from the bustling action below.
8/ I took a seat against the wall, as far opposite the door from which I entered as I could. I can still remember how mesmerized I was by it all. I had never been farther east than St. Louis, but here I was now - the place I had romanticized about, NYC & the NYSE. Magic!
9/ I was riveted. To me, the exchange was literally beautiful. The rumble from below echoed and rose to the gallery filling it with energy. Floor brokers walked briskly and crowded around trading posts. I would pick one out and try to follow them with my eyes studying their path.
10/ It was exhilarating, but impenetrable. I understood nothing. By mid morning, all stocks had opened; the Dow was off 100 points (4.5% back then). I had no sense of how much that was relative to any other day. Honestly, I was clueless that anything unusual was even happening.
11/ The Dow leveled around 2050 then bounced. It managed to rally back above 2100 just before noon, only to roll over again through lunch (which no one appeared to be having). At 1pm a rumor began circulating that SEC Chairman, David Ruder, had asked the NYSE to halt trading.
12/ Rumors of a halt sent traders looking for an exit. The afternoon turned from ugly to panic. The auto execute system of the time (DOT) became so overwhelmed orders couldn't get through.

The Dow breaks 2000, down 10% on the day. It's 2pm and the loss isn't halfway done.
13/ Now I start to catch on. Ppl around me are commenting amongst themselves about "being here for the crash." A guy at the far side asks a staffer if they would be selling t-shirts that say we were here on this day. I began to realize that I had stumbled into something historic.
14/ The final hour brings blood-in-the-street price action that alters lives and careers. Indiscriminate margin-call selling, evaporating bids... quotes were hours behind, nobody knew if they were filled - a totally choked up system suffocating on fear. Minus 300, 400... 500!
15/ Then it was done; the closing bell. Dow Jones Industrial Average: 1738.74 -508, -22.6%. For a lot of people, the world they knew had just cratered. For me, however, with nothing invested other than hope, it felt like it was all about to open up for me.
16/ Naturally, an optimistic and naive 18 year-old would see it that way. I exited out Broad St. to a crush of people. The intersection of Broad & Wall, then open to traffic, was slammed. Famished, I bought a street pretzel and Pepsi then climbed the steps of Federal Hall to eat.
17/ Taking a seat high on the steps above Wall St, I watch the carnival below. Several news vans crowd into the narrow street, tires up on the sidewalk, antennas extended tall, reporters, cameras in chase, interviewing floor brokers and civilians alike. (I might be in this pic).
18/ One of the most memorable moments of the day came about an hour later. Back uptown, I entered Grand Central Station on the Vanderbilt St. side, which is elevated above the station floor. It was close to six o'clock, about as busy a time as it gets in Grand Central.
19/ But that day it was quiet. Every bit as crowded, but quiet. Back in the 80's, perched above the passageway heading out to 42nd St. there was a huge clock with an electronic stock ticker underneath it that stretched across the width of the passageway that people passed under.
20/ From atop the stairs on the Vanderbilt side I can see the clock and stock ticker well, and below, I witness a phenomenon; rush hour commuters standing in place, silent, as if rehearsed, heads tilted, following in disbelief the grim parade of stock prices surfing the ticker.
21/ By then, word had spread - word of mouth mostly. In those days prices weren't easy to get. Most people relied on the paper, watched the nightly news. You could get quotes from a broker if you could get one on the phone. Even then, the tape was so behind... quotes unreliable.
22/ For the people in Grand Central that evening it was the first chance to see it for themselves. It was an astonishing scene, people pausing from routine, focused on the ticker in the eerie choreography of a shared social experience. Stunned... some traumatized.
23/ The experience of that day only reinforced for me what I had already been determined to do by coming to NY in the first place: to find a way into the investment business. How to do that remained a mystery, but the crash, strangely, inspired, rather than discouraged me to try.
24/ That winter wasn't the best time to be looking for a job on Wall Street, but I answered an ad - one of many - in the NY Times, the exact words of which I still remember...

"Entry level position available for recent college grads at prestigious Wall St firm."
25/ I called the number, ignoring the fact that less than a year earlier I was a senior in high school. The firm was Lehman Brothers and even though I had no shot of a job, I hustled myself into an interview just so I could see what the inside of Lehman Bros. looked like.
26/ Through a confluence of luck, and incredible kindness, the Lehman manager I met with, a young woman named Irene, offered me a job as a cold caller for $4.75/hour. I was broke, always cold, hungry, and lived in a slum, but I was now officially the luckiest kid on earth.
27/ All the other details about my time at Lehman, my path from there, and the heros, scoundrels, & legends I would meet over the decades is best saved for another time. Today is just to acknowledge 'Black Monday' - it was the fork in the road that changed the course of my life.
28/ So today: gratitude for all the experiences of the past 30 years. The investment game has given me more intellectual satisfaction, and introduced to me to more fascinating people, than I could have ever hoped for in life. And I'm still just a student of the game.

Small correction: Now that I think about it, they gave the tickets out for free. There was a line, and a limit, but I don't think I paid.
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