The answer is easy.
This past Friday the market closed down 300 points.
For some reason, it just didn’t seem that way. That sense of disbelief and denial just wasn’t there, but I don’t think it was desensitization or numbing.
Although news is no longer pre-requisite for big moves, we did have news that was painted as being the root cause of the drop. That was the resignation of Jeurgin Stark from the European Central Bank, ostensibly over a disagreement between northern and southern European nations over how to handle the Greek crisis. This came on the heels of the German Supreme Court ruling that it was constitutional for Germany to participate in a Greek bailout.
Of course, Stark’s announcement pointed to health considerations.
For me, I thought that Juergen Stark was a character in the 1960’s cult comedy “Get Smart” ad that the market had 40 years to respond to that news. So much for that worthless aphorism that the market looks forward by 6 months and discounts the future.
Also turns out that was “Shtarker”
Maybe the day didn’t seem like any other 300 point drop day because it was the day that the NYSE commemorated the tenth anniversary of the September 11th tragedies.
There were moments of silence preceding the opening bell and then throughout the first 2 hours of trading, each representing a specific event on that horrible day.
There were many of those events, each one more unbelievable than the preceding and still hard to believe could actually happen to us.
Or to anybody.
Throughout the weekend there were ceremonies and special broadcasts.
The human mind may forget some of the details of that day, 10 years will do that, but the emotions were still there each and every time that the fall of the Towers was replayed.
Beyond that, the poignant personal stories in New York, the Pentagon and aboard United 93 still evoke tears. There’s no numbness, it’s still very fresh and painful to think about those personal stories.
Nearly everything elicited moist eyes. Paul Simon’s slow and somber rendition of “Sounds of Silence” was perfectly appropriate and gave an opportunity to interpret the meaning of each and every word.
I didn’t know anyone that was directly impacted by the death of a loved one or friend that day. I know that fellow high school and college alumni were victims that day, but I knew none of their names.
I happened to be in New York of September 10, 2001, having driven up early that morning upon receiving news that my mother had a stroke.
I’d made that 200 mile drive many times, very often as a day trip.
As it turned out that day was no different, as the stroke was relatively minor and I felt confident enough to return home, while already beginning to map out our family’s next steps.
I still recall seeing the Twin Towers as I entered New Jersey on the return trip home, but just quickly glanced at them, as I had always done, never lingering, unless traffic was stalled.
This time, the glance was perhaps less, as I recall being on the phone with a friend, trying to stump him with a piece of baseball trivia. I knew he would know the answer, since he was a sports trivia savant, even more so when it came to the Pittsburgh Pirates, his boyhood hometown.
The question was whose pitching record was Roger Clemens seeking to break for best winning percentage in a single season.
I just needed someone to talk to and joke with after a long day. He was just the tonic. The trivia question was just an unnecessary excuse.
He’s gone now, too, but I can still recall every word of that converstaion, coincidentally etched in time.
As it turned out, Clemens never broke Roy Face’s best winning percentage record, but who cares?
The next day, of course, is now one of those very few of our collective experience that people will always remember where they were and what they were doing as the news came through and then unfolded.
Two weeks later I was back in New York, this time to move my mother down to live with us.
The Towers weren’t there on the horizon and the air was still thick. That was the very last time she’d ever see New York, the city that gave her refuge. Freed from the Nazis, freed from Soviet Communists, orphaned and alone, but like so many others, discovered incredible inner strength and helped to defeat evil.
Now it was time to escape, one last time.
Thinking about a 300 point drop reminds you how meaningless some things are. Most things we can recover from. In fact, a 300 point loss, for most people, is just an event marked on paper. Unless you close out positions in panic, they’re just unrealized losses.
Not so for the events we’ve just commemorated. Even if there is no direct connection, there is a direct connection and a grief that will never go away.
Following Friday’s 300 point loss, there’s every reason to believe that the market will return to life on Monday, every reason to believe that at least there is a potential for rebirth.
For those that perished on that day that potential has been extinguished. Yet, much has been said about what that horrible day and its events has given us as a nation and as a people.
3,000 victims murdered on a single day, 2,000 orphans, 1,000 children that never met their father, another 5,000 military fatalities and, yet, Americans have rebuilt their lives and nation.
Amazingly, there never really was an endemic sense of panic. There was the immediate “fight or flight” adrenaline rush of those that due to their unfortunate destiny to be in a certain place at a specific time, but that’s a response that we’re wired for.
When it came right down to a rational assessment of the immediate hour and then the future, it is incredible how quickly individuals, businesses and our government started to move forward.
We still disagree. Just look at how long it took to get any kind of agreement over the New York memorial and rebuilding project, but we’re wired to do that as well.
In free societies, that’s what people to. They express themselves. Human expression is the bane of evil and of those that seek to promote evil.
Buildings get destroyed, innocent people are murdered, but our basic wiring is unchanged and we don’t cower in caves or behind women and children. We don’t attack places of worship, soft targets on non-combatants.
For me, watching thousands gather to commemorate the lives of those lost and the physical evidence of our monuments in respect of their lives and contributions is a greater victory than the death of a miscreant terrorist leader.
Bin Laden will be remembered as he died, even by those unwilling to admit the vision of him aged and prisoner in his own home. He grew old and pathetic. Our ideals and national spirit have not. They’ve become renewed, strengthened and resolute.
At first, I thought that a 300 point down day occuring on the day that we were commemorating the tenth anniversary of victims was an affront to their memory. Couldn’t we do better?
But then it dawned on me that the absence of panic and the focus on things far more important is a small, but fitting tribute to the legacy of those that have helped to carve out our newly strengthened national identity.
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