Monday, August 17, 2015

How Quickly We But Not All Forget

August 29, 2005;
How Quickly We But Not All Forget
By Jim "Gymbeaux" Brown, August 16, 2015

The following was copied from the Wikipedia Internet page:

Monday, August 29, 2005[edit]
At 5:10 AM CDT (1010 UTC), Hurricane Katrina made its second landfall as a strong Category 3 hurricane at Bay St. Louis, MS, with sustained winds of more than 125 mph (205 km/h), although Category 4 winds may have briefly affected the area.[14] Katrina also made landfall in St. Bernard parish and St. Tammany parish as a Category 3 hurricane for a total of three landfalls in Louisiana.[citation needed]
By 8:00 AM CDT (1300 UTC), in New Orleans, water was seen rising on both sides of the Industrial Canal.
At approximately 8:14 AM CDT (1314 UTC), the New Orleans office of the National Weather Service issued a Flash Flood Warning for Orleans Parish and St Bernard Parish, citing a levee breach at the Industrial Canal. The National Weather Service predicted three to eight feet of water and advised people in the warning area to "move to higher ground immediately."[15]
By 9:00 AM CDT (2100 UTC), there was 6–8 feet of water in the Lower Ninth Ward.[16][17]
At 10:00 AM CDT (1500 UTC), Hurricane Katrina made its third landfall near Pearlington, Mississippi and Slidell, Louisiana, with sustained winds of 120 mph (193 km/h) after crossing Breton Sound. Also at 10:00 AM. while at a Medicare event in El Mirage, Arizona, President Bush said, "I want to thank the governors of the affected regions for mobilizing assets prior to the arrival of the storm to help citizens avoid this devastating storm."[18]
It is fast approaching August 29, 2015 and I cannot help but be amazed at how quickly so many have forgotten so much.  For me, that date will live on in infamy much like President Roosevelt said about the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Pearl Harbor is a page in the history books for me, Hurricane Katrina literally struck home; hard for me to forget so quickly.
This Nugget is not about how Katrina affected me, although that is a great part of this Nugget, it is more about how one commercial entity responded to the people within that organization on very short notice.  Like so many organizations, we had a plan, somewhat, describing the duties that must be followed should our area be struck by a serious storm/hurricane.  Like most folks it was on paper but no one really thought it would ever be implemented.  We were all wrong; so very wrong.
For me it started like any Friday except in addition to going out for dinner, we were going to take in a concert by Chris Botti at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, MS.  The concern was fabulous!  Arriving home late at night we went to bed.  Since it was then Saturday, for me it was an early rise to play golf with the guys.  None of us had any idea what was soon to befall us all.  On the fifth hole, I distinctly remember one of the players asking "where are all the birds?"  Our course was typically inundated with birds of all types but on this early Saturday morning, August 27, there were no birds, no ducks, barely a sound.  When we stopped at the club house after the 9th hole they had the television on the weather channel and Hurricane Katrina which was suppose to pass us far to the east was instead bearing directly upon Slidell, LA and the surrounding areas.  We immediately went home and all of us packed for evacuation.
It had always been my plan to evacuate to the Birmingham, AL area should the need ever dictate an evacuation.  I had prearranged with the Keller Williams Realty Market Center there to do so.  My daughter had a home there and even though she was overseas visiting family, she welcomed us and others to her home.  We arrived late Saturday evening.  I checked in with the Keller Williams Realty Market Center in Hoover, AL my home-away-from-home for the next 4 weeks.  Even though it was a Sunday, I was welcomed with open arms.
Before the storm actually struck landfall, the cell phones stopped working.  Remember it was 2005 and texting was a relatively new phenomenon.  The storm struck early Monday morning.  When the seriousness of the storm became evident, I went to the Hoover Keller Williams Market Center and began calling my 75 agents and staff to make sure they were safe and out of harm's way.  That is when I suddenly realized that the macho exterior I had was all a fake and that I cared more deeply for my crew than I had ever known.  I could make contact with so very few that first day; the phones simply did not work  It wasn't until Wednesday or Thursday that we all realized that even though the voice part our cell phones would not work, the text portion did and we all went through a very quick self-training on how to text.  By texting I was able to make contact with about 60 of my crew over the next 7 to 15 days.  Still about 15 were unaccounted for and panic really began to set in.  The agents of the Hoover office realized just how bad off I had become and would not talk to me but instead would just pass me by and put their hands on my shoulders.  Just the thought of that even today brings tears to my eyes.  Finally all were accounted for and they were safe but a lot of their homes were another story for another time.
There were 17 Keller Williams Market Centers and over 750 Keller Williams agents and employees who were ultimately affected by Hurricane Katrina, some far more than others.  Yet with the electrical power being out throughout the Region, communication and business operations were impossible.  Not only were agents worried about their own homes and their real estate businesses, they were very much concerned about the buyers and sellers they represented.  Contracts were all put on hold; nothing would close and no one was making any money.  Some seller's homes survived, a lot did not.  Some homes that buyers had contracts on survived, a lot did not.  Sadly one thing that none of us predicted or considered was that some homeowners where very unscrupulous in their business dealings.  Some sellers who had contracts on their homes that survived wanted to cancel their contracts at any price and jack up their asking prices.  Seller of homes that survived but as yet received no contracts, immediately jack their prices up - a simple matter of supply and demand at work.
It was during the first days following Hurricane Katrina I witnessed firsthand how some people sought to reap rewards and heretofore unseen benefits from the storm and a very select few stepped to the plate to provide purely selfless activities in support to those affected.  Keller Williams Realty International (KWRI) was one such group of people.
Several years before Katrina, KWRI established a non-profit charitable account where Keller Williams agents and employees could make contributions that would be used for charitable endeavors and to help Keller Williams agents who found themselves in perilous situations through no fault of their own.  It was a noble endeavor.  If memory serves me, on the day Katrina struck there was about $500,000 in the account; maybe less.  Nonetheless, then CEO Mo Anderson contacted the 17 affected Market Centers and made this profound declaration.  The account, Keller Cares, will immediately deposit $5,000 in each of the over 750 members accounts and all that was needed was the name of the financial institution and account numbers to which the deposits would be made.  Just receiving that info when communications were so bad, was a monumental task.
The math was quite simple, 750 members, $5,000 each, no questions asked as to need, meant that deposits exceeding $3,750,000 were to be made from an account that had $500,000 on record. 
Step 2.  Mo Anderson contacted all of the remaining Market Centers and asked them to do three things.  First, contact all of their agents and ask for donations to the Keller Cares fund.  Secondly she asked each ownership group from every Market Center to until further notice volunteer to donate 10% of their Market Center's profits to a fund that would be utilized by the 17 affected Gulf Coast Keller Williams Market Centers to insure they remained solvent during the upcoming weeks they would be non-operational.  That was huge!  And the movement was on.  The last thing she asked was that anyone who could, to help affected Market Centers and agents in any way they could, and they did!  There may have been like-minded CEOs who did similar miracles for their companies but I have heard of none that actually did.  One organization simply directed its membership to seek help from the Red Cross.
Step 3 and this may have been the most critical of all.  Mo Anderson established a program whereby another Keller Williams agent would literally adopt another adversely affected Keller Williams agent and become their advocates.  They would contact the agent as soon as communications would permit to ascertain their situation and determine what they needed just to survive.  Additionally Keller Williams Market Centers did the same for the affected Market centers.  With 75 agents in my Market Center it would be impossible to list all of the help the agents received from cars, yes cars, to clothing, money, food, and simply things like tooth brushes and soap. Until it happens, you have no idea just how much you need and cannot get with all the stores being closed indefinitely and money being in very short supply if available at all - remember the power was out, banks closed, ATMs not working and this went on for as long as 4 weeks.  On top of all that - IT WAS HOT, VERY HOT!  I know that in one such incident one of my agents was asked what she needed.  She said that all she needed was a place to wash her clothing.  Suddenly and I mean suddenly, a washer and dryer appeared at her home.
About 6 weeks after the storm hit there was a Keller Williams training function in Austin TX primarily for Owners, Team Leaders, Brokers of Market Centers from all over the world.  I remember saying I was going to attend to get away from all the destruction and heart break and just hide out among the 3 or 4 thousand people who would be in attendance.  That didn't last long.  I remember it as if it were yesterday when Mo Anderson asked me to sit on stage with her and to tell everyone about the experiences of Katrina.  What I remember was that leading up to the time I was to talk, Mo Anderson kept rubbing my back.  When it came time to talk, I could not; I just stood there and cried.  Just before I was to say anything they announced that they had taken up a collection of those in the audience to help support the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast Market Centers and it exceeded $35,000 which was just from the money in their pockets. I literally became a basket case in front of over 3000 people.

It has now been 10 years since Katrina struck and destroyed the lives of so many.  I still get tears in my eyes as I recount this.  I had known Mo Anderson prior to Katrina and I had always known her to be a very caring and dedicated leader in the company.  I also knew that she was in part responsible for the company belief that the order of priority within the company is God, Family and then Business.  On August 29, she violated that belief by putting the Keller Williams Family first and for that I and so many others are forever grateful to both God and Mo for understanding and stepping to the plate!

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