ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
The scene outside California's IndyMac Banks today was like something out of the Great Depression. People lined up before dawn waiting for the banks to open so they could make sure their money was safe. The FDIC reopened IndyMac today after seizing it last Friday when there was a run on the bank.
NPR's Mandalit del Barco visited one branch in Pasadena.
MADALIT DEL BARCO: At four o'clock this morning, Charles Kengeri(ph) was the first to line up outside IndyMac's Pasadena headquarters, and he was the first to leave with a check for more than $171,000 of his money.
Mr. CHARLES KENGERI (IndyMac Bank Customer): I was very, very surprised at how does a bank this large could go bankrupt. I'm happy to get everything out; I didn't want to lose anything. I'd rather have something up than lose everything, you know?
DEL BARCO: Kengeri figures the bank gave him about 60 percent of the money he had in his savings account - retirement money he had socked away after 40 years of teaching third and fourth grade students at a public school in L.A. The 70-year-old immigrant from Kenya also worked a second shift teaching adults to speak English.
Mr. KENGERI: This is my life savings. You know, I've been working to save money for my kids and my grandchildren but, you know, I didn't think that anything like this was going to happen because this is one of the best banks around.
DEL BARCO: The FDIC guarantees accounts up to $100,000, but Kengeri had more than that in his. He says the bank couldn't assure him if or when he would be able to talk out the rest of his money.
Are you worried about getting all your money?
Mr. KENGERI: I'm not worried. I have full trust in them. You know, I know it might take a little time but I'm hopeful, I'm keeping my fingers crossed because I have a full trust in the U.S. government that they're going to it.
DEL BARCO: Representatives from the FDIC worked through the long line of hundreds of customers that sneaked around IndyMac's headquarters, answering questions from some anxious depositors.
Mr. RICKEY McCULLOUGH (Ombudsman, FDIC): I mean, we own the bank now.
DEL BARCO: You own the bank now.
Mr. McCULLOUGH: Yes.
DEL BARCO: And how long it's going be…
Mr. McCULLOUGH: We're going to be here indefinitely until we get a resolve.
DEL BARCO: Rickey McCullough is the ombudsman for the FDIC.
Mr. McCULLOUGH: Depositors of FDIC assured us that (unintelligible) have absolutely nothing to be worried about. All those individuals who have insured deposits no matter what bank it is, those depositors are safe.
DEL BARCO: But news didn't completely reassure customers like Judy Werschon(ph) who got her knitting needles and yarn as she waited to get into the bank.
Ms. JUDY WERSCHON (IndyMac Bank Customer): I figured if Nero could fiddle while Rome burned, I'll just sit and knit while IndyMac comes down. It's controlled rage.
DEL BARCO: Werschon says she quickly withdrew most of her money last week, and she was back today to take out the remaining $40,000 from her business account.
Ms. WERSCHON: Lesson learned, don't put everything in one bank, because they don't tell you when it's going to go down. They'll - right up to the bloody minute, they'll take your CDs and they'll take your hundred thousand, and the next thing you'll be locked up.
DEL BARCO: Many customers were left wondering where to put their money now. Werschon says, in the future, she'll keep her money in the several things, just in case.
Ms. WERSCHON: I mean, we just have to start banking intelligently. We can't assume that if we put our money into a bank, that that bank is going to come through for us. So, you know, short of throwing it under our mattresses, we just have to divide it up.
DEL BARCO: Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.