Rock Bottom

ILLUSTRATION FOR TIME BY RAY BARTKUS

Some joined the queues before dawn. Many waited in line for days. But among the armies of customers to besiege Northern Rock bank branches in recent days, there was a common cause. "I'm doing what everybody else is doing," one elderly man, waiting to withdraw his money from a branch in northern England, told reporters. That meant "panicking. I'm joining the herd."

He wasn't kidding. Almost immediately after Northern Rock announced on Sept. 14 that the Bank of England had agreed to make an unspecified amount of emergency funds available to it, worried depositors began retrieving their savings....

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