Book review: Resurrecting The Street: Overcoming the Greatest Operational Crisis in History

As we once again approach the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, it’s worth pondering that there is a generation approaching high school age which has little to no personal memory of how terrifying that day was. In that respect, it’s good to keep the narrative alive and author Jeff Ingber relates his unique perspective in his book Resurrecting the Street.

Spoken from the perspective of one intimately familiar with the financial world of government securities, Ingber compiled the book over the course of many months and over 100 interviews with others who experienced the events of the day. With those additional voices to provide background, Ingber paints a well-rounded portrait of the events which unfolded in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, particularly the hard decisions on when the markets would reopen and how the billions of dollars of unfinished business which was conducted by traders who were victims in offices which were no longer in existence would be reconciled. It took until the following May, writes Ingber, to finally reconcile these lost trades to a point where the total in question was less than $40,000.

Meanwhile, waiting in the wings was a world financial market placed on hold thanks to the 9/11 attacks. With bated breath, people around the world were seeking a sign that America was not going to be defeated by the actions of radical Islamic terrorists who had succeeded in their second attempt to bring down the Twin Towers.

But there were a number of other operational hurdles to address in the days following the attacks as well. While the question of redundancy and backup planning was broached in the months leading up to the Y2k panic, few financial companies had adequate facilities to deal with the problem. And even when there were contingencies in the system, many had a fatal flaw: for example, there was only one Verizon switching facility in that portion of Manhattan, so even completely isolated systems were routed through that one choke point.

Given the amount of lavish detail the subject demands, Ingber does a reasonable job of humanizing a story which could have been bone-dry. But the book bogs down in some sections; for example, Jeff spends a number of pages relating the history of government securities and how that business evolved. It’s somewhat worthy background reading matter, but probably could have been excised without detracting from the final product. The extensive footnotes – nearly 100 pages worth – cap off a book which chugs past 300 pages by itself.

As a financial lay person, to me the most interesting parts of the story were the experiences of those who didn’t run from Manhattan. Obviously escapees from the World Trade Center had to get out by any means possible in a situation where delay eventually meant death (Ingber points out that those who escaped the World Trade Center after its 1993 bombing may have gained some knowledge which saved their lives) but those in surrounding buildings who stayed on to assess the damage and rebuild a system through sheer dedication, gut instinct, and faith that the financial crisis could be rectified are the real heroes in Ingber’s book.

We’re still years away from a time where those who lived through the 9/11 terror become as rare as those who distinctly recall Pearl Harbor Day are today. But Jeff Ingber tells a story which needed to be told, adding his expertise and extensive interviews to the tapestry of tales weaved about the most tragic day in our recent history.

Update: I’m told this book will be free (presumably the e-book version) between September 7th and 11th.


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