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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Back to work: The BBC's Stephen Evans
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New York's financial district reopened on Monday for the first time since last week's devastating attack on the city.

The first day of trading saw sharp falls, with the Dow Jones stock index losing 7% of its value - the largest one-day fall in its history - and the hi-tech Nasdaq falling 6.8%.

There have been fears that the events of last week could badly affect business and consumer confidence, sparking a collapse in share prices and plunging the already faltering US economy - and the rest of the world's industrialised nations - into recession.

But support in the form of interest rate cuts from central banks around the world helped to stave off the gloomiest predictions.

What has it been it like for New Yorkers as they go back to work? What is the mood in the city as it relives the events of last week?

The BBC's business and industry correspondent, Stephen Evans answered your questions in a live forum.



Stephen, we have got a number of e-mails that have been coming in ever since the disaster struck last week. I am going to read through a couple of them to start with and not surprisingly some of them deal with the moment when the attack happened and of course you were at the bottom of the World Trade Center. We have got one here from Doug Bell in Edinburgh, UK. He asks: I was listening to your broadcast just as the first tower collapsed, your connection to the studio was lost and we all held our breath thinking you must have been buried. What exactly happened to you during that collapse just then?

Stephen Evans:

I was in a hotel - I had got away from the World Trade Center - I was in a hotel room about, I would have thought, a hundred yards from the two towers which were standing at that time and I was looking down from the hotel room at a line of ambulances which were waiting to get into and ferry people away. Nobody thought that either of the towers were going to collapse.

I was in the hotel room on the phone broadcasting. I didn't realise that pictures of those were going out live, so I was describing the scene that was in front of me. I couldn't actually see the tower because it was masked by a wall just to my right. But what happened at that moment, as I described with the ambulances below and the north tower which I could see, is a sort of whoosh of smoke and gusts and that kind of thing coming into that street below me. It was at that point that the phones went and that hotel was then evacuated and the alarms went off. But all the phones in the area had gone obviously and you couldn't use your mobile so that's why I went out of contact but I was then getting away from that area to a point a little bit further back.


I guess nothing prepares any of us for what really happened next did it Stephen?

Stephen Evans:

The whole thing remains completely baffling to me really. Everybody will tell you that it wasn't real and it doesn't seem real now. The other thing is, authority - a kind of faith in authority makes you think that things are going to be alright. I never thought that the whole thing was dangerous. Once we moved out of the building, I thought - well there we are, we are out of the building now, the authorities are here. So you assume, well that's ok, the police are here, the fire brigade are here and the ambulances are here - so that's ok, we are now safe - the event is over. You never think that actually the event may be so terrific that it's not controllable and that the authorities simply don't know on earth what to make of it. I assumed that engineering assessments had been done - obviously they hadn't and they couldn't have been.

Something that comes into my mind about all this. My uncle is an engineer and he was teaching the next day in McGill and coincidentally the lecture he was giving was about high-rise buildings. So he started off his lecture by saying: there is no way of avoiding this, we can't avoid talking about what happened yesterday and the whole class apparently - I wasn't there, he was there - was just utterly silent from the start. He then described the engineering of that crash - what happened to those buildings and what he says is that those buildings would have been built to sustain that kind of knock. It is not the knock from the airliners which demolished them.

He says that an airliner could have flown through those buildings and they would have stayed standing. But it is the heat that actually did it and you need a temperature - according to him - no greater than burning wood basically. And what that does is, it just makes the metal slightly pliable. Right at the top it gets pliable with the heat - the heat at the top apparently gets hotter. So it bends and collapses at the top and that weight goes down so it demolishes like the pack of cards you saw.

Now I suppose if you are looking for any kind of silver linings in that horrible, horrible thing - and there aren't any silver linings but if you were looking for one - it would be that the thing went down like that and not like that which is what would have happened had there been an impact at the bottom. Obviously if it had gone down like that it would have taken a lot more people with it.


Stephen I guess those images will stay will us for an awful long time. Moving on to Gavin Haslehurst, Bristol, UK who asks: How have you managed personally to keep yourself together after seeing these horrific scenes and still report without showing any bias?

Stephen Evans:

I think the question of bias and the media and commitment is a very, very good one. There is a debate within the media about whether you should call these people terrorists - in what I would call the responsible media - because the whole history of reporting dissident groups who use violence - to put it no more strongly than that, is that you call them terrorists one moment and then next moment you are shaking their hands as the future prime minister of a liberated country.

Now it seems to me that - and this is my personal view now - that is far too prissy. But there are such people who rely on terror, they are a minority, they'll never ever get their own way through an election so what they do is they try and create terror in the majority in the hope that the majority will then say look we can't take this terror any more therefore we will give in. So there is that question about how much commitment and how much taking sides you have.

My own view is that there is no doubt that was a terrible event. Personally I have got no doubt that there is something pretty fundamentally evil going on. Whether those people are evil I don't know - it is for all your gods to judge. But there is this question of whether you kind of relentlessly condemn the causes surrounding them or whether you try and - even now - keep some kind of distance and almost some neutrality. I am always in favour of neutrality but I think in this case, if you can't call these people terrorists, I don't know who you can call terrorists.


Before you can deal with some of the more human aspects to this and also the impact on the companies, we have got an e-mail here from Karen Barnes, Durham, UK who asks: I have read that some companies lost almost their entire staff in the attack. Apart from the obvious personal losses, how will this affect the performance of these companies and will it lead to their eventual downfall?

Stephen Evans:

You are absolutely right. If you look at the diagrams of who rented what space, in what towers, you can work out who these companies are. There are companies that had five floors - say the 96th floor to the 101st floor in one of those towers. So you can work out that some companies - and you know exactly which companies they are by looking at the diagrams - lost an awful lot of people. I don't think any company needs that particular group of people completely.

If you think of when that helicopter went down in Scotland taking a good chunk of the intelligence community with it - people with very, very specialised knowledge. One imagines that a particular part of the intelligence community - Northern Ireland's intelligence community lost expertise in a major way. But, companies and organisations pick themselves up and go on. What we don't quite know is whether very, very expert people - people at the top of companies died - my suspicion is that they didn't. Often those people were back office staff. Huge human tragedies, no doubt about that and great losses to those companies but the kinds of skills which can probably be replaced. But I am surmising - I am guessing.


Stephen, a lot of the e-mails, as you can imagine, come from all over the world in fact we have got some from as far afield as Australia. The question from John in Australia is that his country and many economies rely heavily on the US for their economic value and to some extent their stability. Will this event lead to world recession or will some economies boom as a result?

Stephen Evans:

In terms of companies, some companies will do well. You can look at what share prices have done. The defence company share prices have risen, airline share prices have fallen. So companies do well out of war and some companies do badly.

In terms of whether there will be a recession - everybody I have talked to today and yesterday in New York thinks the probability of a recession has increased markedly. Most people thought before these events that a recession was a possibility - a 10% possibility for a serious recession. People I have talked to since think that there is now a likelihood of a recession. Clearly, we had all the central banks moving to cut interest rates - they can see what the risk is. I put it at 50-50. But, every economist may judge it differently.

No economist would say that a recession is less likely now than it was seven days ago and I think virtually every economist would say that a recession is actually much more likely now than it was seven days ago. That will affect Australia obviously - Australia is part of the world economy. It will affect every country if there is a recession because it is a tightly-knit global economy now.


Stephen, I guess it depends to some extent on how Bush himself handles this whole crisis. We have got an e-mail from Peter McDermott in Auckland, New Zealand who asks: We have seen criticism of the President's handling of the attack in the British media. What is the feeling about him in the US, particularly in New York?

Stephen Evans:

I think Europeans may be getting it wrong actually. A lot of people I know I know in Britain - in the chattering classes, the Guardian-reading classes, the Independent-reading classes, the Telegraph-reading classes are very sneering about Bush. They think he is not very bright, they think he is lightweight - who knows, that may or may be true, I have got absolutely no information about that.

What they were all saying was - well it's not Churchill is it? Well it is not Churchill but actually on the ground here he went down very well indeed. There were those pictures of him with arm around a fireman for example and the folksy way in which he has talked and the way in which he has obviously been genuinely moved by this thing and genuinely determined to do something. We can have a debate about whether what he does will be helpful or not some other time. But he is clearly resolute that something needs to be done - genuine quiet anger in the man and the people I have talked to - perhaps not in the chattering classes - actually find that very impressive.

My feeling is that his presidency has been transformed by it. He was looking like a man out of his depth to me before it and suddenly he looks like a man in amongst his own people and respected by his people. I talked to a lot of Democrats about it who have said - I never thought that Bush was a very good president, didn't vote for him, but I take my hat off to him now.


Ok Stephen, I am afraid we will have to end it there. Thank you very much for watching.

See also:

17 Sep 01 | Business
Solemn traders return to Wall Street
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