Lessons From '93 Helped Oppenheimer Survive Attack

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The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center led to the formation of disaster-recovery plans by Oppenheimer Funds Inc. that have helped the company function after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack that destroyed its headquarters.


"[That] was a ... lesson for us," said Greg Stitt, the company's director of media relations. "We implemented disaster-recovery plans, so we had a location that would be up and ready to go. That's what we put into play Tuesday night -- getting it up and ready to go for when trading started again. Hotline numbers were part of this. Employees had wallet cards with emergency numbers to call. We have trading and portfolio management operating in two suburban locations in New Jersey. Marketing is still being worked out ... and as early as [this week] they will have locations to go to."


The company is one of three members of the Direct Marketing Association that lost offices in the disaster. It was headquartered at Two World Trade Center, occupying floors 31to 34 and 37. All 598 employees have been accounted for, and none was hospitalized. Two employees suffered minor injuries.


"Ours was not the first building hit," Stitt said. "There was a ... gap between when [One World Trade Center] was hit and [Two World Trade Center] was hit. Even though we didn't know what it was, we evacuated, and it began immediately. I was outside for a minute before the second plane hit. It took 10 to 12 minutes to get down and outside the building.


"We weren't sure what it was that hit the first building. I first thought it was a transformer that had blown. It wasn't until we were in the plaza level that people said what it was, and that was when the second plane hit. As we were coming down the stairs, people were getting mixed in [with people from other companies] and separated.


"The places that we would use as rallying points were no longer applicable because they were in the World Trade Center and the World Financial Center," Stitt said. "The way we were able to account for everybody is that we have hotline numbers, and as the day went on, we got a running tally. By noon the next day, we were able to account for everybody. Going down the stairs, we did not realize what was going on. We just knew we had to evacuate."


Back-office, dealer-servicing and accounting functions all are handled from the company's Denver location.


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