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Business world's losses reach into the bay area

By ROBERT TRIGAUX

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 14, 2001


As New York's Morgan Stanley, largest tenant in what was once the proud World Trade Center, still tries to account for all its staff, Tampa Bay area employees of the Wall Street securities giant struggle toward some sense of normalcy.

As New York's Morgan Stanley, largest tenant in what was once the proud World Trade Center, still tries to account for all its staff, Tampa Bay area employees of the Wall Street securities giant struggle toward some sense of normalcy.

Stock markets have remained closed since Tuesday when the country suffered its worst-ever terrorist attack. But brokers at Morgan Stanley's five area offices still come to work. They still try to reassure their very nervous clients. They anxiously await the reopening -- expected Monday -- of the U.S. securities markets.

And like the rest of us, they are still stunned and privately mourn.

While few of us may know our neighbors well anymore, our real sense of "community" increasingly belongs to the workplace. Personal ties run deeper than they might seem between Tampa Bay's work force and the distant thousands killed and injured in the terrorist-orchestrated attack three days ago in New York, Washington and outside Pittsburgh.

Thousands of people -- employees, bosses, competitors, sons and daughters, dads and moms, young and old -- were killed. Company founders, CEOs, managers, engineers, teachers, Hollywood producers, artists, secretaries, janitors and rescuers were among those who lost their lives. We await a final word on many more.

We already know Tuesday's attack was one of the biggest disasters ever for the United States. But so, too, for the U.S. business community.

The attack is forcing new rules of war upon commerce. For the first time in our still-young Internet world, corporate web sites are being used on a broad scale as online memorials for the deceased and as updated news services for missing employees.

Among such Web sites: small tech companies www.Akamai.com and www.Thoratec.com; Wall Street's www.morganstanley.com andoa href=http://www.citigroup.com>www.citigroup.com; and retailer www.tjx.com.

Of the 1,200 companies with offices in the World Trade Center complex, two firms alone have more than 1,300 workers who are unaccounted for as of Thursday evening. Closure will take a long time.

One small bit of better-than-expected news: Morgan Stanley said Thursday afternoon that of 3,700 employees assigned to the World Trade Center, fewer than 40 are likely to have died.

Who would ever guess we'd cheer over such casualty figures?

Many of the same companies whose employees are still missing or died also happen to be significant players in our area economy. The now-collapsed World Trade Center was home to such symbols of economic might as Bank of America, Aon, Verizon, MetLife, Citigroup and Washington Mutual.

North Carolina-based Bank of America, the dominant commercial bank in Florida, still is trying to confirm the status of some of its New York staff. Thursday afternoon, chief executive Ken Lewis said the bank still is not in touch with eight employees. More than 400 are okay.

Chicago-based Aon, an employee benefits consulting service with an office in Tampa, had 1,100 of its 50,000 workers in the World Trade Center's south tower. Most of the 1,100, but not all, are accounted for.

Verizon says most of its 488 employees are accounted for. But fixing Wall Street -- "probably the most telecom-intensive spot in the world" -- could take a while.

MetLife, Citigroup and Washington Mutual, all of whom employ close to or more than 1,000 Tampa Bay area workers, had World Trade Center offices. MetLife is missing "two top sales people." Citigroup on Thursday said it can't find four employees believed to have been visiting customers within the World Trade Center.

Other companies prominent in the World Trade Center have close business ties with Tampa Bay companies. Two investment banking boutiques -- Keefe, Bruyette & Woods and Sandler O'Neill -- fear particularly heavy losses. Keefe said it may have lost between one-third to two-thirds of its staff. Sandler, which occupied the lofty 104th floor of 2 World Trade Center, confirmed Thursday that 67 of its employees and two outside consultants have not been found.

Let's not minimize the hundreds who perished on the four planes seized by terrorists.

Victims of the American Airlines and United Airlines flights that struck New York's World Trade Center included seven women who worked for TJX Cos., the Massachusetts parent of such familiar stores as T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. The seven, whose ages ranged from 27 to 42, were headed to California for a new store opening.

"Our family is forever changed," lamented TJX CEO Ted English. On the company Web site, each employee is profiled.

Also among the victims were four employees of Lexington, Mass.-based Raytheon Co., the parent company of St. Petersburg's Raytheon E-Systems. Among them: Peter Gay, vice president of operations for the company's Electronic Systems unit.

Daniel Lewin, the young co-founder of Cambridge, Mass.-based Akamai Technologies, also died. Akamai, an Internet company, is a technology partner with St. Petersburg's young Web business, Hydrogen Media.

An in-memoriam link to Lewin appears on Akamai's Web site. "Akamai Technologies is deeply saddened by the passing of Danny Lewin . . . Danny was 31 years old and is survived by his wife and two sons."

As days pass, as more names of the dead become known, the more anguished ties we will encounter between Tampa Bay's business community and the terrorist victims.

Not yet, but soon, it will be time for everyone to get back to work. There's much to do.

- Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8405.

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