Investor treasures this falling stock
Hanging on the wall in the lobby of the Morgan Stanley office in Glenwood Springs is a framed stock certificate, its top edge burned and crumpled, the paper tattered and fragile.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, this certificate and thousands of others were stored in a huge vault in the Morgan Stanley offices in the 6 World Trade Center building in New York City.
The vault was open, and Morgan Stanley workers had begun their daily job of processing stock transactions when terrorists flew two jetliners into the adjacent north and south towers of the Trade Center.
The same fires and heat that caused the north and south towers to collapse also raged in the adjacent 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 World Trade Center buildings, and they collapsed as well. The Morgan Stanley vault rode down in the collapse.
Mike McCallum, vice president of Morgan Stanley’s Glenwood Springs office, wasn’t thinking about his stock certificate last Sept. 11. He worried about his co-workers.
Morgan Stanley was the largest tenant in the South Tower, occupying 26 floors of the building up to the 78th floor, along with offices in the 6 World Trade Center building, and employing 3,700 people at the trade center.
“When it came down, we didn’t know where they were. These were people we talked to all the time,” McCallum said.
But in the next few days, the news for Morgan Stanley, one of the nation’s largest stock brokerage firms, was surprisingly good. The company lost just 13 employees.
One was Richard Rescorla, the company’s security director. After the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center, Rescorla made safety training his top priority. Every month he put the company’s staff through an evacuation drill. On every floor, he appointed a safety marshal.
On Sept. 11, he ordered Morgan Stanley workers to evacuate the South Tower after the first plane hit the North Tower. They had a 15-minute head start.
“That probably saved most of our people’s lives,” McCallum said. But Rescorla went back into the building to make sure the floors were cleared, and was trapped in the collapse. Many of the other Morgan Stanley workers who died were safety marshals who stayed behind to make sure co-workers got out safely.
Once people were accounted for in the days after the attacks, company officials began to list missing documents and equipment.
“Originally we were told the vault was gone,” McCallum said.
But a few days later, workers dismantling the building found the vault, said Kim Richardson, senior registered sales assistant for the Morgan Stanley office in Glenwood Springs. The demolition crew allowed two Morgan Stanley staffers, along with four firefighters, to go to the vault in the collapsed structure. They filled duffel bags with the papers found in the vault, and lowered them to the ground by ropes, repeating the process until the time was up.
Although there were computer records verifying all the accounts, many clients insist on holding a paper certificate.
McCallum told his colleagues that one of those stock certificates belonged to him. It was held in the New York office because it was part of his IRA account.
In February, McCallum got a call. The stock certificate turned up.
“I said, `Don’t send it to the transfer agent. I want it back.’ They said, `We have to shred it.’ So I asked them to stamp it canceled and send it to me,” McCallum said.
His colleagues agreed. They sent the singed certificate to McCallum in a plastic envelope. When he opened it in Glenwood Springs, the smell of smoke was strong.
The certificate was issued in 2000. But the paper was as fragile as if it were 100 years old.
“If you held it, it would fall apart,” McCallum said.
To him, it is a valuable symbol of one of the most important days in American history.
He asked the Main Street Gallery to take special care in framing it. “Who knows? One hundred years from now it might be like having something from the Titanic,” he said.
Now it hangs on the wall in the lobby of the Morgan Stanley office in Two Rivers Park Plaza.
“At times, it’s tough, it really is tough to look at. You think of that building going down, and that piece of paper riding down with everything that building held,” McCallum said.
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