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‘Black Monday’ Plunge: From ‘High Life’ To Street Life

Filed by KOSU News in US News.
October 19, 2012

Robert Griffo was living the high life at an investment firm on Wall Street when the stock market crashed 25 years ago on Black Monday. Along with the Dow Jones industrial average, Griffo’s life tumbled.

Griffo tells StoryCorps he worked with the investment company for 11 years.

“I was making a lot of money,” he says. “I used to walk over homeless people at Grand Central Station when they were begging for money and I’d say ‘You need to get a job.’ But I lost myself on Wall Street.”

When the market crashed on Oct. 19, 1987, Griffo thought he would be let go.

“Week to week, I would just watch colleagues near me just be escorted out of the buildings, and I quickly fell apart,” he says. “I would be awake for days, because I was using cocaine and heroin.

“And I ended up not only losing my job, but I lost my children, my beautiful wife, and I ended up in the streets.”

He went to the 207th Street bridge in upper Manhattan, intending to jump.

“And one time, I stood there at the rail for about 30 minutes, trying to convince myself that this was the right thing to do,” he says. “My family would be better off with me gone, and I just said, ‘Let’s just get this over with.’ “

Griffo didn’t jump — he says he always had some hope left that he would be able to fix things. In November 1991, five men from an Alcoholics Anonymous group came to him at the box he was living in on the street. Other homeless people had asked the men to help Griffo, who, they said, didn’t belong on the streets.

After restarting his life, Griffo got an apartment. But it was far from glamorous.

“I had a metal chair that was my couch. I had an upside-down box from a TV set that was my coffee table,” he says. “I had a $15 voucher from the Salvation Army to buy pots and pans and forks. And I started my life over.”

Griffo, 57, now works at a suicide-prevention hotline.

“I’ve lost an awful lot. But I tell a lot of people that today I’m rich and some day I’ll have money again. As far as I’m concerned, I won the lottery: I got my life back.”

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Michael Garofalo with Yasmina Guerda. [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

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