- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2001

The collapse of the World Trade Center towers hit close to home this week.
Companies like Sodexho Inc. and Bank of America both with operations in the Washington area have been searching for New York employees who are still missing as the twin towers were demolished after terrorists crashed into the skyscrapers Tuesday.
"It's been very stressful," said Leslie Aun, a spokeswoman for Sodexho, a food and facilities management company headquartered in Gaithersburg. "We were scrambling to get [employee] records and worked as quickly as possible to identify the employees."
At the Trade Center, Sodexho had 46 employees who supplied food services for six accounts there. As of press time yesterday, four employees were still missing, three were injured and the remaining 39 were safe and accounted for, Ms. Aun said.
Sodexho, which has a message from Chief Executive Michel Landel on its Web site, has set up information numbers for its employees in New York City, as well as a special counseling help line for employees.
Bank of America, which has a heavy presence in the Washington area, was still in the process yesterday of accounting for its employees who worked in the collapsed buildings.
"We had several floors there in New York, and we're in the process of counting all the noses," said Bill Couper, the president of Bank of America Greater Washington. "We believe the majority of the people got out safely, but we haven't been able to confirm everyone."
Most of the branches at the nation's largest bank opened as usual across the country, with the exception of some locations on military bases like Quantico and at Bolling Air Force Base.
Mr. Couper said employees were feeling a general sense of shock.
"No one contemplated a tragedy of this magnitude," he said. "But certainly, the common denominator is shock," he said.
Bank of America's Trade Center employees will most likely be sent to work at other Bank of America offices in New York and in New Jersey, Mr. Couper said.
Even as the companies sought word on missing employees, they worked nonstop to set up operations at surrogate offices outside Wall Street's narrow alleys.
Officials began shifting to emergency centers, diverting operations to other offices and testing computer and communications systems for a reopening of bond markets today and stock markets as early as tomorrow.
Electricity, phone and other basic services went out across Manhattan's financial district during the attacks, and market officials said it might take until Monday to restore them.
Hundreds of companies' offices were destroyed, and hundreds of other firms were forced to flee buildings that were damaged or too close to the destruction.
Many firms, while speaking of their new arrangements, declined to specify new locales for security reasons.
Merrill Lynch, at least for now, cannot access its football-field sized trading floors in the nearby World Financial Center, which also suffered significant damage.
"We have contingency plans for activities to be carried out at other locations. In fact, I'm speaking to you from an emergency location right now," said Merrill Lynch spokesman Rich Silverman.
The industry's task was made somewhat easier because many financial firms have their operations in other parts of New York or in other cities.
Although Bear Stearns had an operations facility in the financial district to help process trades, its primary operations were in Midtown Manhattan or in New Jersey, said spokeswoman Elizabeth Ventura.
"Our ability to trade was not impaired by this horrible tragedy," she said. "But we do have emergency backup facilities. We have very large trading facilities ready that we would be able to move into were there an emergency."
Morgan Stanley, the biggest tenant in the World Trade Center towers that were wiped out by the attacks, has its trading desk elsewhere in New York. The towers were home to stockbrokers who dealt with investor accounts, which are being relocated to other offices.
Many banks, brokerages and insurers keep duplicate computer networks and store data in sites outside Manhattan, making restoring operations possible, said Dan Burke, a brokerage industry analyst for Gomez Advisors of Lincoln, Mass. Many of those data centers sit across the river in New Jersey or across the country.
Many companies back up their data once a day. But that means data on trades executed Monday night on overseas markets might not have been saved before the attacks occurred, said John Jackson, president of the disaster recovery division for Comdisco, of Rosemont, Ill.
"Based on my knowledge of the companies, there is some significant data loss," said Mr. Jackson, whose company is helping rebuild networks for six World Trade Center-based firms and 29 others whose nearby offices are shuttered. "Anything they've done since the last backup occurred is lost."
Typically, the missing data is retrievable through paper records or employees' memory.
"But in this case, all the paper is gone because the building is gone," said Mr. Jackson, whose company also recovered data for firms displaced in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
This story is based in part on wire service reports.


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide