Tyler Sutherland, 25, started dabbling in the stock market about six months ago, the same time the earnest, cherub-faced account executive went to work for GIT Investment Funds.
Sutherland was at the firm's K Street office yesterday, taking calls and visits from worried investors and tallying up his own losses from Monday's stock plunge. The Fairfax resident had been counting on a $3,000 profit to help with with the down payment on a town house next summer; instead, he lost $2,100 in a matter of hours and has "pushed back" his plans for buying a home.
"It's scary, very scary," said Sutherland. "I see these people come in very anxious, and I can sympathize with them. Actually, I am them."
Throughout the region yesterday, Sutherland and other small investors took stock of the market. Was it coming up? Was it going down more? Should they get out, stay in? Would it all work out, and smooth out? Or, heart in throat, was America about to be rocked by recession -- or taught a new chorus of "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?"
"The small investors are scared to death, and I don't blame them at all in view of what's happening," said Guy Chance, vice president and research director of Richmond-based Scott & Stringfellow Inc. The firm was advising clients to look at investment opportunities created by the massive selloff, but even Chase conceded, "It takes a bit of courage to buy stocks today."
Washington area brokerages found local investors, big and small, mirroring national trading patterns. Monday's panic was followed yesterday by continued selling as well as some bargain hunting. While some analysts advised clients to stop trading and sit tight through the volatile market, others were recommending that investors buy while prices are low.
"It was bloody again today," said a war-weary Charles T. Akre, director of research for Johnston, Lemon & Co. Inc. He called the day's wild gyrations of buying and selling "utter chaos, absolute chaos."
The stock market's fall was reflected in the faces of individual investors and in the shopping habits of some -- but only some -- consumers.
"You usually don't know about people's personal finances," said Carol Huff, a communications company employe who didn't need to ask how the stock market debacle had affected her colleagues. "You saw white faces and could see who the players were. ... People here have been truly horrified."
At White Flint Mall, the sales director of Black, Starr & Frost, a shop selling expensive jewelry, said the number of customers had stayed about the same during the market plunge, with one shopper plunking down $1,200 for a gold watch.
At the Raleigh's store, assistant manager Rudy Taylor said he had noticed a distinct leveling off in the sales of men's suits. His own reaction to the stock market collapse has been more personal: "I was home crying over my 401(k)."
A 10-year employe of the store, Taylor, 32, said the tax-sheltered corporate savings plan is his only investment. He said he put $7,200 in high-risk stocks and knew "I was taking my chances. ... I don't know what I lost."
Stephen Collins, sales manager at the Thomassen Lincoln-Mercury dealership on Rockville Pike, said the firm usually does little business when stocks are down -- but not yesterday.
By early afternoon, the dealership had sold four 1988 models, including three $25,000 Lincolns. On a typical day, he said, they make two sales.
Still, not everyone took the collapse in stride or seemed willing to sit tight and see what happens. At least one elderly woman, remembering the panic of 1929, took all her money out of the bank -- just in case.
Around the pool tables at the Schweinhaut Senior Citizen Center in Silver Spring, the market performance was one of the main topics of conversation. But the memory of the crash more than 50 years ago seemed to keep things in perspective.
"The bottom fell out then," said Norman Budesheim, 79, a retired utilities consultant. "But I would call this a momentary panic."
Budesheim was a bank teller on Oct. 28, 1929, and he recalled yesterday how the customers flooded in. There was one who killed himself because of his losses. But there was another man he remembers better.
"He said, 'Norman, you see me -- the only difference between me and when I was born is that I've got clothes on.' He had lost everything, but he said he would get it all back," Budesheim said. "And he did."
Betty Gnatt, visiting friends at the center, said she lost money Monday but doesn't expect to go hungry. Her son, a certified public accountant who takes care of her investments, "called me and said, 'Mom, don't worry about it,' so I don't worry." Staff writers Claudia Levy and Molly Sinclair contributed to this report.