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Monday, 17 September, 2001, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Solemn traders return to Wall Street
New York police officers manning barricades
Police officers control access to New York's financial district
By BBC News Online's North America business reporter, David Schepp, in New York

The air is foul and biting, with a sour chemical smell. Dust is covering everything.

But New Yorkers are reporting back to work.

In stunned silence they are picking their way amid the rubble of the city's financial district.

Rubble in the streets of New York
A sour smell pervades New York's financial district
A few are well-prepared, donning dust masks for the several block journey to their offices.

Once there, some find their buildings closed off and are left standing outside, coffee and newspapers in-hand.

Navigating the area's narrow streets is difficult during the best of times.

Now with the invasion of barricades, National Guard soldiers and members of the press, it is nearly impossible.

Onerous din

Portable power generators hum loudly on the streets, the din only occasionally punctured by the honk of a horn of a truck trying to press through the throngs of people.

Shopkeepers have begun the painstaking process of reopening their businesses, wiping down dust-covered merchandise, mopping floors and cleaning windows.

Many are still without phone service, so transactions are in cash only.

Yet they are eager to serve the few folks who meander in, taking a breather from the foul air.

A number of subway stations that run close to what New Yorker's call Ground Zero are closed.

The subway trains breeze through, there are no stops and no riders on the platforms.

Well guarded

At the Wall Street subway stop on the 2/3 line, a crush of business people tried to exit the station via a single open exit.

Crane moving debris away from the collapsed twin towers of the World Trade Center
Rescuers are picking through the rubble

New York City police officers guarded the other exit and ushered travellers through the one safe entrance.

It is a scene that would normally cause New Yorkers to curse and bark cat calls, but now the only sound was the shuffling of feet.

On the front of the New York Stock Exchange, at the corner of Wall and Broad Streets, a huge flag was raised. Further down Nassau Street, Stars and Stripes Forever blared from a loudspeaker.

New York's finest

New York City police officers - out in full force - were stationed at every street corner in the financial district, directing people and answering questions.

Workers shuffled past check points, showing photo IDs and business card to prove they had a good reason to be in the area.

While Wall Street officials uttered assurances that New York markets would not collapse, those reporting for work were not nearly so self-assured.

The bravest of comments came from one businessman who said: "We'll see."

The BBC's Mike Fox
"It's clear that this first trip back to work was traumatic for everyone"
See also:

17 Sep 01 | Business
US, ECB cut rates to stem panic
17 Sep 01 | Business
New York gets back to business
14 Sep 01 | Business
Wall Street mourns lost colleagues
14 Sep 01 | Business
Battle to open markets on time
13 Sep 01 | Business
Disaster planning saves Wall Street
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