"My stomach hurts!"
That memorable quote - one that's stuck with me for the past 21 years - occurred on October 19, 1987, in the midst of the now-infamous crash of '87. It came from my fellow producer/reporter at CBS Radio, Maureen Clark, who crystallized what all of us were feeling as we watched the Dow lose 22% of its value in a single day.
We worked for a daily half-hour show called "Business Update", and it was the first time I experienced that now familiar pit-of-the-stomach feeling about a story I was also trying to cover. I had a Quotron on my desk that displayed the major market averages, plus all the stocks I owned, on one screen. All during the bull market that preceded the crash, I happily watched while most of those investments went nowhere but up.
However, this day, the screen was red. Very red. I was watching my net worth disappear while trying to interview people and write and voice stories for that day's show. It was a struggle, but we got through it, and put on an excellent show on a day when suddenly, EVERYONE cared about business and financial news.
I've thought about that day quite a bit these past few weeks, as we face what's arguably the most severe financial crisis in decades. Everyone at CNBC - both on air and off - felt an enormous weight of responsibility. This was no longer a business and financial story. It was THE story. And - it's fair to say that - although I didn't poll each and every one of my CNBC co-workers - we all had that pit-of-the-stomach feeling to some degree. In my not-so-impartial opinion, that makes the kickass job we did even more impressive.
CNBC employees can't invest in individual stocks (except for parent company GE), but I can guarantee you that we were all feeling that sick feeling while watching the value of our 401Ks and various mutual fund investments sink.
Being an eternal optimist (one of my co-workers once called me a financial "Pollyanna", a description I gladly accept), I believe many will look back at this period and say "why didn't I buy XYZ then?" Arguments over the details of the bailout aside, we WILL get through this. It may take a very long time, but we will.
Until then, however, my stomach still hurts.