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Red, White and Blue on NYSE Floor

Traders battle acrid smoke, grief to get back to work.
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The NYSE made good on its promise.

Six days after a terrorist attack devastated lower Manhattan, Wall Street returned to work. Traders arrived as early as 6 a.m. EDT at the New York Stock Exchange on Monday, about five blocks away from where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood.

On the floor of the NYSE, the acrid smell is a constant reminder of the carnage. A number of traders carried American flags with them to work, some of them dressed in red, white, and blue ties. Members of the Big Board greeted each other and hugged. "It's eerie, but we're eager to get back to work," said one trader. "It's time." Some disagreed: "I really didn't want to come, I really don't want to be here today." Another added: "It looks like a war zone. I don't feel totally safe. The air quality is so poor."

Outside the New York Stock Exchange, members grouped together, relieved to see their colleagues alive and well. Some were even optimistic about the trading session ahead. "All the bank systems are doing a great job," said one NYSE member. "Hopefully, it will be a good day."

National guardsmen in camouflage stood on street corners in the area, armed with rifles. Police officers lined the streets, wearing gas masks and checking identification as people returned to work on Wall Street. Bomb-sniffing dogs greeted press members who were waiting at the NYSE to watch the opening bell.

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Following a two-minute silence -- and a rendition of "God Bless America" -- a group of four men representing the fire department, police department, port authority, and EMT, rang the opening bell.

No technical problems have been reported on the floor of the NYSE so far today. "The most-liquid, most-watched market in the world is back in business," said Dick Grasso, chairman of the NYSE at a press conference this morning. "We have sent a message to the criminals that they have failed."

Grasso thanked the men and women who put their lives on the line to enable those in commerce to do what they do. Just blocks away from the Big Board, the rescue effort continues. Workers are still sifting through the wreckage, hoping to find survivors among the more than 5,000 missing people.

Shortly after the opening bell, the major averages were down sharply and curbs were in effect. "Today's market is not important," Grasso said. "It's the market a year from now that matters."

"This has got to happen," said one trader. "It will come back."

Lee Barney contributed to this story