Answering the bell

NYSE reopens amid tight security, clean-up

NEW YORK — The relaunch of the New York Stock Exchange Monday had as international a profile as last week’s tragedy, with as many as 250 reporters, a record at the NYSE, from every corner of the world on hand for the opening bell.

First several minutes of silence and a song, “God Bless America.” Then a firefighter and a policeman pushed the green button that rings the bell, which has rarely sounded with the symbolism it achieved Monday.

“Our heroes will now open the marketplace,” intoned NYSE chairman Richard Grasso, flanked by Treasury Secretary Daniel O’Neil, Gotham Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New York Gov. George Pataki, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chuck Schumer and other New York politicos.

A full complement of 1,366 members of the exchange plus support staff showed up for work — about 3,000 total. The streets in the immediate vicinity of the exchange weren’t noticeably damaged by the collapse of the World Trade Center Towers. But the air was still irritating to the lungs as a cleanup of the debris from the collapsed buildings only several blocks away was still in its early stages. Some wore masks.

New York City police herded reporters to various checkpoints manned by media-relations staffers of the exchange. Reporters had to pass through three different PR staffers set up in various spots at 11 Wall St., the main entrance to the exchange, and 18 Broad St., a side entrance. Hordes of press queued up in front of the Broad Street entrance for long waits.

The exchange’s PR people allowed reporters access to the building in small groups, roughly every 10 minutes or so.

After dogs sniffed their briefcases, reporters passed through metal detectors to ride a narrow elevator to the ornate, high-ceilinged room where Giuliani and a number of political leaders, including Clinton and Schumer, held a 10 a.m. press conference congratulating the exchange for all the advance work it did to open for business with surprisingly few glitches.

While acknowledging that the exchange “will be subject to a state of high alert for a long time,” the mayor called the measures “sensible security.”

“Society has to return to normal,” he said.

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