Outside Lehman Headquarters, Curiosity, Concern

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Outside the headquarters of Lehman Brothers, the shock of Monday's news spilled out onto the sidewalk. Financial workers who had lost their jobs hauled cardboard boxes out through the front door. Tourists gathered to see the economic carnage, and New Yorkers worried about their city's economic future.

The Lehman Brothers building is just north of Times Square, and it has adopted the same flashy, trashy style. Its glass facade is interlaced with giant video screens showing nature scenes: blue skies, sunsets, purple mountains majesty. It was a soothing contrast to the chaos outside.

"I've watched folks come out and they are pretty sad or they're pretty just resolved at what's going on," said Margie Shaver, a tourist from Roanoke, Va., who took a picture of the crowds. "You kind of can't go on without stopping to see what's going on."

It was a painful scene. Dozens of reporters and camera crews were perched just outside the entrance. Every few minutes, a stone-faced employee would leave with his or her belongings in a cardboard box or travel bag, and the camera crews would chase them down the street for a comment. No one wanted to share what it was like to be at the center of the biggest business story of the day — at least not on the record.

But there were plenty of financial workers from other firms who came over to share their grief and perhaps thank their lucky stars.

"When you're on the inside everyone has their targets, everyone has their priorities, everyone thinks they're doing the right thing," said Mario Del Duca, who works at Lloyd's Bank, which is next door to Lehman. "Maybe Wall Street took too many risks. That, only history will tell, but it's looking like we all took too much risk."

The economic nervousness could be felt all around New York City. Crowds of people in Times Square pressed their faces up against the window of the Nasdaq market site, watching all the stocks in the red.

James Hughes, a tourist from London, said it shakes his faith in the entire system.

"It's frustrating a little bit," he said. "I mean, you know, you kind of hope these people would look out and have some kind of foresight of what might happen."

In an effort to build up the confidence of New Yorkers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a former investment banker, took to the airwaves. Lehman Brothers employed 12,000 workers, but Bloomberg said it wasn't a disaster for the city.

"There's 3 1/2 million people that work in this city," he said. "And there's an awful lot of different businesses. So, not good, but not calamitous.

"It is calamitous for the people who are out of work and it may very well be that some people will come along and hire groups of those and I do expect a majority of them to be able to get jobs."

Back on the street at the Lehman headquarters, there didn't seem to be much optimism.

Artist Jeffrey Raymond hauled out a giant portrait of Lehman CEO Richard Fuld and invited employees of the company to sign it as a final farewell.

"One said 'Bad government equals lost jobs,' " he said. "One wrote: 'I am Spartacus.' "

Raymond says he wanted to give the Lehman workers a cathartic experience on what was otherwise a dark day.



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