That day the opening bell was rung by firefighters and policemen. The floor was crowded with public officials, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, and then-mayor Rudolph Guilianni.
A decade later, the opening bell is still an important daily ceremony, attracting corporate chiefs and celebrities. But in the years since the terrorist attacks, the floor of the stock exchange has been transformed from a hub of financial activity into a largely symbolic location.
"I cannot believe how few people are on the floor these days," says Bob Cunningham, a member of the NYSE for 25 years. He has been off the floor for five years now.
There are still people on the floor of the exchange. They still trade, mostly handling large block orders for major institutional investors. But they are keenly aware that they are a dwindling lot. The number of brokers and clerks on the floor of the exchange has shrunk from a high of 3,000 to just 1,200.
The company that owns the exchange, now known as NYSE Euronext, is an international conglomerate of financial exchanges that stretches around the world. It is, at least in part, now a technology company. It handles trading in options, derivatives, and futures. Less than twenty percent of its annual revenues come from stock trading, and only a small percent of that is actually done by people on the stock exchange floor. Last year, only 5 out of every hundred stock trades conducted through the New York Stock Exchange passed through the hands of floor traders.