ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Outside the headquarters of Lehman Brothers, the shock of today's news spilled out onto the sidewalk. Employees who had lost their jobs hauled cardboard boxes out the front door. Some tourists gathered to see economic carnage, as did many New Yorkers who were worried about their city's economic future. NPR' Robert Smith headed out into the city streets.
ROBERT SMITH: The Lehman Brothers building is just north of Time Square, and it's adopted the same flashy trashy style. Its glass facade is interlaced with these giant video screens showing off nature scenes, blue skies, sunsets, purple mountains' majesty. It was a soothing contrast to the chaos at street level. Margie Shaver, a tourist from Roanoke, Virginia, was taking pictures out front.
Ms. MARGIE SHAVER (New York Tourist): I've watched folks come out, and they are pretty sad, or they're pretty just resolved to what's going on.
SMITH: Isn't this like slowing down on a highway to look at a terrible wreck?
Ms. SHAVER: Sort of, kind of, yeah. Yeah, you kind of can't go by without stopping to see what's going on.
SMITH: It is a painful scene. Dozens of reporters and camera crews are 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, yes, chase them down the street looking for comment.
No one, it turns out, wants to share what it's 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. Mario Del Duca is from Lloyd's Bank next door.
Mr. MARIO DEL DUCA (Lloyd's Bank Employee): I mean, when you're on the inside, everyone has their targets. Everyone has their priorities. Everyone thinks they're doing the right thing. Maybe, Wall Street took too many risks. That, only history will tell, but it's looking like we all took too much risk.
SMITH: The economic nervousness could be felt all around New York City today. Crowds of people in Times Square pressed their faces up against the window of the NASDAQ market site. They're watching all the stocks in the red. James Hughes, a tourist from London, says it shakes his faith in the entire system.
Mr. JAMES HUGHES (New York Tourist): It's frustrating a little bit. I mean, you know, you kind of hope these people would look out and have some kind of foresight of what might happen.
SMITH: They were supposed to be the experts in this building.
Mr. HUGHES: Exactly. I mean, what confidence I give you if all of the things are in...
SMITH: In an effort to build back up the confidence of New Yorkers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a former investment banker himself, took to the airwaves. 12,000 New Yorkers work at Lehman Brothers, but Bloomberg said it isn't a disaster.
Mayor MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (Republican, New York City): There's three and a half million people that work in this city, and there's an awful lot of different businesses. So not good, but not calamitous. It is calamitous for the people that 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 the majority of them to be able to get jobs.
SMITH: But back on the street at Lehman Headquarters, there didn't seem to be much optimism. An artist, Jeffrey Raymond, has hauled out his giant portrait of Lehman CEO Richard Fuld, and he was inviting employees of the company to sign it as a final farewell.
Mr JEFFREY RAYMOND (Artist): One says, bad government equals lost jobs. One wrote, I am Sparticus. Greed, greed, greed. Good luck. Thanks, Dick, which I'm thinking is a sarcastic comment and a lot of other stuff, I guess.
SMITH: Raymond says he wanted to give the workers of Lehman Brothers a cathartic experience on what is otherwise a dark day. Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.