NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Five years ago on Sunday, Sept. 14, investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, a turning point in the 2008 financial crisis that caused tumult in esoteric credit markets to accelerate into a cascading global financial panic.
What began as a Wall Street-oriented catastrophe eventually reached all corners of the global economy. The U.S. fell into the sharpest recession since the Great Depression. In Europe, nations teetered on the brink of bankruptcy.
Millions of Americans lost their jobs and unemployment rates remain at historic highs in many developed market economies. The 2008 crisis has also spawned an overhaul of the global financial system as regulators work to ensure that future banking industry panics don't imperil ordinary citizens.
Five years ago, a handful of extraordinarily powerful bankers were racing to save the financial system after sowing the seeds of collapse. Bankers such as Richard S. Fuld of Lehman Brothers, John Mack of Morgan Stanley (MS) and John Thain of Merrill Lynch were working around the clock to save their firms. Government officials such as New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed Chair Ben Bernanke meanwhile, were in the process of hatching was the biggest rescue -- or bailout -- in Wall Street's history. In a definitive New Yorker recount of the crisis, James Stewart called the crescendo of panic that began on Sept. 12, 2008, the Eight Days of the Financial Crisis. As Stewart concluded, there was a point during the economic tumult when unbridled fear conquered reason. Depending on one's views some acted decisively and heroically to curtail the panic. Others wonder why more bankers weren't prosecuted. There is also still widespread unease with the size of Wall Street's bailout and an ensuing concentration of wealth among the nation's economic elite not seen since the Gilded Age. TheStreet combed audio files made available by the Senate-appointed Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission for perspectives from key players in the financial crisis. The FCIC's work stands as a definitive account of what brought the global economy to near collapse. Disclosures made by the Federal Reserve under the Freedom of Information Act also show the alarming scope of Wall Street's bailout. Transcripts still to be released by the Fed may yet shed more light on the crisis. Here are recounts of the crisis from Jamie Dimon, Richard S. Fuld, Tim Geithner, Lloyd Blankfein, Ken Lewis, Warren Buffett and David Einhorn. They recall issues such as the bailout of Bear Stearns, the failure of Lehman, the rescue of Merrill Lynch, and the near-collapse of AIG. God, Country, Lehman -- Written by Antoine Gara in New York. Follow @antoinegara