“I have a need for speed!” Those are the words mobile browsers are shouting!! People’s expectations for a better digital experience start with page load speeds. In our “I want it NOW” society, speed is imperative in every search. In the automotive arena, consumers are demanding to go further, faster! (Prospects want more information and are willing to research more sites to get it, look at more information apart of researching/buying experience.) While they will look at more sites for more information, they are not interested in waiting for that information. Wait time kills searches. Period.
Too often we abandon a mobile site when it fails to load fast enough. We have so many other options to ascertain the information needed/desired, we will abandon slow loading sites and move on. Google research states that, “if people have a negative experience on mobile, they’re 62% less likely to purchase from you in the future.” Think about this one; the average mobile webpage take 15.3 seconds to load. Stop and think about how long 15.3 seconds is. Let’s count that out, 1 second, 2 seconds, 3 seconds, 4 seconds, 5 seconds…. we know what comes next…. Abandonment! (Noting, we didn’t get past 5 seconds….)
We all know, “Time Kills Deals” and that is more evident today than ever! Google recently introduced Speed Scorecard, a very easy to use tool that allows you to compare your mobile site speed with the industry. The results have been eye-opening. Several of the big automotive website players have a lot of work to do, really quickly, to reduce load speed times. Speed is a game-changer! Google has conducted significant research confirming that slow loading mobile sites don’t just frustrate customer’s; it causes them to move to another site. Google notes that even a one second delay in mobile load times can impact mobile conversions by up to 20%. Google’s Impact Calculator allows you to estimate the potential impact that could result from improving your mobile website speed. Every second counts!
Here are a few suggestions:
Use responsive websites. You need to ensure that the URL’s in your AdWords account are mobile-friendly and check the load speed. Time Kills Deals!
Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) are the fastest pages on the market. They appear at an almost instant speed. Your search campaigns can deliver prospects to your AMP to receive an awesome fast experience and higher engagement level.
Google Shopping campaigns ensure faster and more seamless shopping experiences for customers. Google Shopping combined with AMP is the combination for success.
Very shortly, Google will begin processing click measurement requests in the background, so our customers immediately land on our site – that will speed up the transfer significantly. I suggest you have a conversation with your third party measuring provider to ensure they are compatible with Google’s new direct hand off and that they can accurately operate and track traffic in a parallel society.
Auto dealers owe a big shout-out and many thanks to Alexander Graham Bell. Yep, that Alexander Graham Bell; the father of the telephone. We owe Mr. Bell a huge thank you, as his invention dating back to 1876, will be the number one tool used in every automobile dealership in 2017.
The newly released Reuters survey clearly shows another increase in internet traffic coming from mobile devices. That projected increase is confirmed by Mega Digital Ad Buying Group, Zenith, projecting 75% of total internet use in 2017 will come from mobile devices. Mr. Bell’s device is in every prospects hand and they are empowered to use it every day, all day.
Cellular service providers held on as long as they could, charging consumers for data usage and exorbitant fees for data usage overages. Those days are gone as we now enter a Mobile Dominated Marketplace (MDM). Car dealers need to embrace MDM and embrace it now! MDM is here and it will be the future! Every auto dealer needs to direct it’s marketing to the MDM. The traditional pushing of a prospect to a form-filled “tell me more” Call-To-Action (CTA) is rapidly being replaced with Mr. Bell’s brainchild, the telephone. The dealers that strategically place CTA’s (in the form of Click-To-Call buttons) will see significant more conversion than the tradition lead-gen forms. That means, dealers will see less form-filled leads! Get ready, but don’t panic. Conversions will increase, but it will be via telephone and less with the traditional, soon to be old-school, forms that require a prospect to give their name, address, phone number and email address just to get the dealer’s best price, or to check availability. This is a good thing for dealers!
Ask a salesperson at any dealership, would you prefer a complete form-filled lead with a prospect’s, name, address, phone number, email address and what type (or exact) car they think they want, or, a telephone call on line 2 with a live prospect calling them. The salesperson that is embracing the new media push of the phone, that “new” tool that has been around since 1876, will convert at a much higher percentage and will be more successful.
As clearly confirmed in the recently released study 75% of TrueCar prospects never spoke/emailed with more than one salesman/dealership during the shopping process. That is a two-fold problem. Salespeople are like fisherman. They make a couple phone calls (casts, and they send a few emails (more casts), and if they don’t get a bite, they are on to the next fishing spot (next prospect). The national average from the time a prospect makes their original contact with a dealership; is another 27 days before the sale is completed. The majority of salespeople working leads have long gone from that prospect. Car salespeople no longer follow a prospect until they buy or die. This is just not happening anymore. The other prong of that two- fold problem is consumers are much more attentive and focused on time management and they won’t answer the phone, knowing it is a salesman calling, until they are ready to speak! They would rather work via text message and email. If you don’t believe that, ask any parent of a teenager or millennial today, their son/daughter will text all day and night, but try to get them on the phone, that is a real challenge.
With that said, be ready and embrace the phone. Be ready when it rings! Don’t make the prospect press 1 for this and 2 for that, and don’t answer the phone “Thanks for calling XYZ Motors, hold please!” That is a complete turn-off. Just like the silly recording that says, “Your call is important to us…” if it really was important, you would answer my call, NOW! The phone is ringing… Be ready and be prepared to convert that phone call into an appointment.
Raymond (“Ray”) Reggie started in the automobile business in 1983 as a salesman and has worked at practically every position in the business. Ray is recognized by his peers in the automotive and media industries as a leader in marketing, branding, e-commerce and sales training.
Mr. Reggie is based in Louisiana, he lectures throughout the country on how to effectively start and operate Business Development Centers (BDC’s) and has produced several training series for optimizing website traffic through branding, marketing, and an array of proprietary tools.
It may have started with female-friendly chainlets like STK in the early 2000s, but lately chefs and restaurateurs all over the country are redefining the steakhouse in new and unexpected ways. Below, we’ve rounded up some of the most notable carnivorous trends of the last year – and shared our picks for the best places in the country to try them yourself. Vegetarians, turn away now.
I found this article from http://www.Zagat.com about the 8 Hottest Steak Trends Across America and I wanted to share it with you.
I’d love to hear from you on trends in preparing and presenting steaks and what’s you favorite steak restaurant and any tricks you utilize when cooking a steak.
Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing back from you.
NEW ORLEANS – The pirate flag hanging in the New Orleans Advocate‘s office in downtown is something of an inside joke – a hammy reminder of the startup paper’s unlikely insurgency against its entrenched competitor, The Times-Picayune.
Other symbols of the year-old paper’s inchoate status are of the more banal variety – the unkempt entrance, desks crammed into an office no bigger than a McMansion living room, one unisex restroom serving the entire staff.
Seven blocks away, the Picayune‘s new headquarters boasts the aesthetics of a well-funded dotcom. The loft-style newsroom occupies the penthouse floor of a commercial high-rise with a ground-level mall. With large windows encircling the office, the staff has a gorgeous view of the Mississippi River.
“We wanted to create a new culture and environment, and we wanted a physical space to facilitate the changes,” says Ricky Mathews, president of NOLA Media Group, which publishes the Picayune.
Despite the Picayune‘s avowed campaign of rebirth, competition and lingering market forces here continue to tug at its once inexorable march toward an unencumbered digital future. There is an old-fashioned newspaper war here, an improbable and unusual development in the digital era.
On May 24, 2012, New Orleanians woke up to startling news that the 177-year old Picayune would cut back on publishing to three days a week as part of a digital-first approach, making the city the first major U.S. market to go without a daily. Sensing an opportunity, the Advocate, based in the state capital Baton Rouge 80 miles north, started a New Orleans edition that would be home-delivered daily. A few months later, the Picayune counterpunched, launchingTP Street, a tabloid sold at coin boxes and stores on days the Picayune doesn’t come out.
The papers’ head-to-head battle symbolizes two sharply different approaches to newspaper survival, an upstart’s bet on a traditional print-focused approach vs. a corporate incumbent’s fervent pursuit of an uncertain but potentially rewarding digital future. It has morphed into a test of newspaper brand loyalty as well as a referendum on the merits of slow-cooked stories developed for the next morning’s paper in an age of instant gratification in a 24/7 news environment.
For now, the 16-month old competition has spurred innovations and operational tweaks that have resulted in more diverse options for readers. The Advocate has beefed up staffing to boost metro coverage in a place racked by crime and corruption but undergoing an economic revival. The Picayune strengthened its depleted reporting staff and vows to continue to pursue investigative stories.
“Sharp elbows make for better reading,” says Kevin Allman, editor of local alternative weekly The Gambit. “There’s no question that The Times-Picayune has gotten better” since The Advocate mounted its challenge.
GOING DIGITAL FIRST
The decision by the Picayune’s parent company, New York-based Advance Publications, to adopt a digital-first approach and pull the plug on seven-day publishing hit the city like a wrecking ball. There were howls of protest and visceral criticism from subscribers, city leaders and media critics. It was a particularly bitter blow. The paper had exhaustively covered Hurricane Katrina and the recovery efforts, forging a deep relationship with New Orleanians.
“It was the Times-Picayune that held every grassroots organizations’ hand and supported their endeavors (after Katrina). And they reported fantastically,” says Anne Milling, a former member of the paper’s advisory board who led an effort to save the paper’s 7-day delivery. “I wish them well. But they lost a great deal of readership and support from the community.”
New Orleans is hardly Seattle – the region’s residents are less likely to be wired for the Internet than those in many other cities – and the locals responded as if they had been betrayed by a cherished friend. “The poor and the elderly don’t have the access to technology (to read online),” New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond says. “I felt it was important that someone speak on their behalf, saying the newspaper is important to their keeping up (with news).”
It didn’t help that the city heard the news not from the paper’s leadership but from The New York Times. The Picayune also laid off about 200 staffers, more than 80 in the newsroom.
The Picayune‘s decision was based on the inevitable decline of print newspapers, Mathews says. “It’s not to replace all lost print revenue, but to incrementally replace it with digital,” Mathews says. “Death by 1,000 cuts wasn’t going to be our approach.”
The Advocate was also in flux.The Manship family, which had owned the Advocate for decades and launched the New Orleans incursion, decided to sell the paper. The family found a buyer in New Orleans businessman John Georges, whose family made a fortune in grocery distribution. Energetic and blunt, the 53-year old Georges had unsuccessfully run for governor of Louisiana and mayor of New Orleans and owns the iconic local restaurant Galatoire’s.
Georges says he was attracted to the Advocate because it is a self-sustaining business with a steady cash flow. “I buy mature businesses in declining markets,” he says. “You couldn’t buy it at reasonable (earnings) multiples before. It’s a consistent business for me. It’s right in my wheelhouse – distribution.”
By its own admission, the Advocate‘s New Orleans edition was at first a fumbling effort. Limited staffing in New Orleans – only six reporters – was an issue. Distribution in the terra incognita suffered as readers complained about undelivered papers. Even with a few New Orleans stories scattered throughout, the edition remained distinctly a Baton Rouge publication, says Dan Shea, a former Picayune managing editor who was hired by Georges as the general manager of The Advocate. “They did a great job getting in a foothold, but they were never going to get off the beach.”
Thanks to Georges’ investment, Shea ramped up hiring and rebranded the new edition as The New Orleans Advocate, signifying greater commitment to the city. The paper also added a local circulation director and sales staffers.
Shea brought in Peter Kovacs, who was forced out as a Picayune managing editor during the layoffs, to lead the newsroom. They started recruiting seasoned reporters for the new edition, nearly all of whom were working at or had been laid off by the Picayune. The newsroom in New Orleans now totals about 30. “It was like having eight of the 10 top draft choices,” Kovacs says.
The New Orleans Advocate is still printed in Baton Rouge and trucked out in the middle of the night. The Baton Rouge newsroom handles copy editing and coverage of subjects of statewide interest, including state government and Louisiana State University football.
That The New Orleans Advocate can draw heavily on existing resources is a major plus. The new edition is not a separate business unit and its financial results are consolidated with the broader Advocate. But, says Shea, “by almost any measure, we’re profitable in New Orleans.”
With ad rates cheaper than at its rival, the Advocate has attracted a few big advertising accounts, including department store Dillard’s. But the challenger is still something of a niche business. The Picayune‘s name recognition and its vastly superior resources are undeniable.
In December 2012, the then-publisher of the Advocate told Columbia Journalism Review that the paper’s circulation in New Orleans had quickly reached about 23,500. But the latest figure supplied by the Advocate – about 25,000 – shows that circulation growth hasn’t grown much since then. And it’s a fraction of the broadsheet Picayune’s weekday average of about 115,000.
Kevin Gibson, a long-time Picayune subscriber, echoes a sentiment commonly heard in the city. While he disagreed with the paper’s decision to cut back, he has “just never moved over” to The Advocate,” he says. “It’s just not the Times-Picayune,” says Gibson, business analyst at a food distribution company.
Last year, The Advocate launched a dedicated website – TheNewOrleansAdvocate.com – but the site’s traffic is minimal. And digital revenue for the edition is something of an afterthought. “Today, print dollars are shoveled out the window at (the Picayune) and we want to capture those,” Shea says.
Meanwhile, the dramatic cutbacks haven’t freed the Picayune from financial pressures. Savings from the reduced print schedule helped the paper reverse its mounting losses. But its chief revenue source – print ads – continues to decline, as it does at newspapers nationwide. Paid print circulation continues to fall, dropping 10% last September from a year before, according to data from Alliance for Audited Media. TP Street sells about half of the single-copy sales of the broadsheet edition, which total about 15,500 on weekdays.
As a private company, NOLA Media declined to reveal revenue and profit figures. NOLA Media has a “net operating profit,” Mathews says.
Despite the cutback in its publishing schedule, the Picayune likely has held on to about 85% of its print revenue, estimates Ken Doctor, an analyst who writes about the news business at Newsonomics.com. “They were profitable before. The whole intent (of the cutback) was to increase short-term profitability and set them up for digital,” he says.
Digital ads, which are meant to replace the decline in print, are ticking up, as is Web traffic. The desktop traffic to NOLA.com totaled 2.3 million unique visitors in December, up 49% from a year ago, according to Comscore.
Mathews says Comscore’s number is incomplete as more than half of the digital traffic comes from mobile devices. Digital revenue grew nearly 30% in the fourth quarter from a year ago, he says.
The contrast between the papers’ editorial philosophies is as stark as the one between their business models. The New Orleans Advocate emphasizes that it has fewer but better journalists producing more meaningful stories. The Picayune points to high volume of digital stories produced quickly – an approach born of its belief that news consumption habits have changed forever.
“They have a larger staff,” The Advocate‘s Kovacs says. “We have a better concept of what the mission of being a reporter in New Orleans is.”
Kovacs hired former Picayune society reporters to write about local parties and celebrities, a topic of great local interest. A restaurant critic from Gambit was hired to enhance coverage of the dining scene, a huge deal in food-obsessed New Orleans. And it hired Walt Handelsman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist who once worked at the Picayune, away from Long Island’s Newsday.
While breaking news gets posted online as it unfolds, Advocate reporters are encouraged to focus more on refining stories for the next day paper.
“There’s some reconstituting of the best of the print newsroom,” says Rick Edmonds, a news industry analyst at The Poynter Institute. “And it’s an interesting strategy.”
Prodded by The Advocate‘s escalation, the Picayune has also gone on a hiring spree to replenish a newsroom that had been decimated by layoffs. With about 162 employees in the newsroom – about 20 fewer than the pre-layoff total – reporters are tasked to post stories rapidly and be less concerned with how the content is presented in print. Picayune editors point out that NOLA.com posted 246 items on a recent day, including stories, blog posts, photos and video.
“Coverage planning originates in the digital newsroom,” says Jim Amoss, the Picayune‘s longtime editor. The digital-first shift “forced a cultural change. I don’t think you can achieve it with gradualism.”
But losing so many veteran reporters has inevitably hurt the quality of journalism and cost the Picayune much of its “institutional knowledge, muscle memory,” Gambit‘s Allman says.
Picayune editors dispute the claim and point to several investigative stories, including a series on the state’s campaign finance.
A local journalism professor, Vicki Mayer of Tulane University, sought to measure how the Picayune had changed since its digital-first conversion. She and her students compared the paper’s content in print and on its website in October 2011 and October 2013.
Her conclusion: Contrary to critics’ claims that the Picayune now favors entertainment and sports over other beats, a majority of its content can still be classified as “hard news,” including crime, courts and politics. But the quality of stories – as measured by the number of human sources quoted in the stories – has waned, Mayer says. In 2011, a little more than three sources on average were quoted per story in print, she says; now that number is down to 2.2. “Reporters are forced to produce more and cut corners on their reporting duties,” Mayer says.
Amoss says Mayer’s study, based on sampling of data, is flawed. “It doesn’t take into account the ebb and flow of the news cycle over each 24-hour period,” he wrote in an e-mail to Columbia Journalism Review.
Whether the Picayune‘s readers choose to ride the 24-hour news cycle with the brand they had come to expect at their doorsteps each morning will determine whether its stunning bet was a wise choice in the long run.
As for The New Orleans Advocate, it faces a daunting challenge. It’s very rare for newspapers to succeed when they plunge into adjacent markets. And it’s placing a big bet on print at a time when newspapers continue to decline.
But this is, after all, New Orleans, distinctive, self-referential New Orleans. Perhaps reading a newspaper, like chicory coffee, beignets and jazz, will remain a permanent part of the city’s unique culture.
“I don’t necessarily want the whole market,” Shea says. “I just want a profitable part of it.”
Broken smart phone: Fix right away or wait for the upgrade?
“Dropped your iPhone into the toilet? Cracked your mobile or tablet screen? If you live in Louisiana, you have company,” reports Lauren McGaughy.
“According to the 2013 Clumsiest States Index, which tracks which residents incurred the highest rates of accident and damage to their mobile devices, Louisiana consistently ranks as among the top 10 least adroit states.”
•Read McGaughy’s full story about Square Trade’s “Clumsiest Index.”
Honestly, I have so many shattered iPhones that I could start a Broken Smart Phone Museum. I’ve had the misfortune of breaking every generation of Apple’s iPhone, but fortunately they were all during a time where I could simply upgrade to the next model.
NOLA.com commenter nola32 writes, “Well if these overprice(d) smart phones would put stronger glass like Gorilla glass, we wouldn’t have a problem.”
I used to think, “Who would be silly enough to make a phone made of glass?” But then I realized that we were the foolish ones for buying them. In any case, cell phone manufacturers and repair guys are laughing all the way to the bank. Or at least they’re smiling when I walk though the door.
The “Clumsiest Index” keeps tabs on the number of insurance claims, but what about those who walk around with the shattered screen? (I’ve also heard this called the “spider web app.”)
In case you missed this. This is a very interesting article about the Causeway Bridge. I hope you enjoy it.
Construction of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway’s first span, which opened in 1956. (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune archive)
Robert Rhoden, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune By Robert Rhoden, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
on November 08, 2013 at 5:06 PM, updated November 08, 2013 at 8:11 PM
The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, which has long enjoyed bragging rights as the “World’s Longest Bridge,” can now put itself in the company of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Washington Monument as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark designated by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The honor, celebrated Friday morning at a ceremony near the Mandeville end of the 24-mile bridge, has nothing to do with the span’s monumental length, however.
Instead, the Causeway’s original span earned the distinction because of the innovative techniques used in construction and the pioneering engineers who worked on the project that was completed in 1956, linking Jefferson and St. Tammany parishes and leading to the explosive development of the north shore.
“It is a symbol for the whole country of the American ingenuity spirit,” said Phil Jones, deputy assistant secretary of the state Department of Transportation and Development. “It stands as a source of pride for the entire state.”
View full sizePlaque noting Lake Pontchartrain Causeway’s status as a civil engineering landmark. (Robert Rhoden, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
A small marker noting the designation stands in a grassy area between the Mandeville toll plaza buildings and the lake.
The first Causeway span, which now carries southbound traffic, was the first bridge ever to be constructed using 54-inch in diameter hollow, cylindrical prestressed concrete piles to support a span, the Louisiana chapter of the civil engineering organization said. The pilings were larger and stronger than the norm, allowing fewer of them to be used and reducing costs, officials said.
Prior to the Causeway’s construction, the standard practice for bridge construction was to use solid square or circular concrete piles of 24-inches or less in diameter, the organization said.
Also unique at the time was the manner of construction. “The Causeway Bridge is the first bridge ever to employ mass-production, assembly line techniques in fabricating and assembling a bridge,” organization noted.
The Louisiana Bridge Co. built a state-of-the-art concrete casting plant on the shore of the lake in Mandeville, just east of the Causeway, where bridge components were built and then sent by barge to the construction site. This method replaced the standard cast-in-place construction method.
“The assembly line process significantly reduced both the construction cost and the installation time,” the LASCE said. The bridge was completed in 14 months from the time the first pilings were driven.
The civil engineering organization lauded the engineers on the Causeway project, designed by Palmer & Baker Inc.
Among them were Maxwell Upson, chairman of Raymond Concrete Pile Co., who was an innovator in the field of prestressed concrete. He came up with the method to achieve higher concrete strengths that were used in fabricating the pilings for the Causeway.
Also cited were Walter Blessey, another innovator and a Tulane University professor who served as a consultant and provided technical research leading up to the application of prestressed concrete on the Causeway project, the engineering group said. Civil engineer Henry LeMieux, who attended Friday’s ceremony, was recruited by Upson to be the New Orleans district manager for Raymond Concrete, and his work to bring key parties together was instrumental in the project, it said.
Henry LeMieux, left, and Peter Gitz, right, stand next to a plaque designating the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers on Friday. LeMieux was district manager for Raymond Concrete Pile Co. and Gitz worked on an engineering crew for Louisiana Bridge Co. during construction of the Causeway. (Robert Rhoden, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)
LeMieux said of the Causeway’s national historic recognition: “It’s marvelous.”
Madisonville Mayor Peter Gitz, who was part of a Louisiana Bridge Co. engineering crew that worked on actual construction of the bridge, also was at Friday’s event. He said that he worked on a barge and was involved in pile driving and taking measurements as the bridge components were assembled.
The work and dealing with the elements was difficult, he said.
“It was cold. It was hot. And the water was rough.”
More than 250 civil engineering projects worldwide have been given National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark status by the ASCE.
Three Louisiana sites carry the designation: the Huey P. Long Bridge, Eads South Pass Navigation Works in Plaquemines Parish and the McNeill Street Pumping Station in Shreveport.
Other attendees at Friday’s event included Causeway Commission Chairman Larry Rase, bridge General Manager Carlton Dufrechou, former General Manager Bob Lambert, St. Tammany Parish Councilman Reid Falconer, Jefferson Parish Councilwoman Cynthia Lee Sheng, ASCE New Orleans Branch President Stephen Johns, ASCE National past-president Thomas L. Jackson and Louisiana Section President Robert Jacobsen.
Lambert, addressing the crowd, marveled at the accomplishment of those responsible for building the first span back in 1956.
“People right here in our community did that,” he said. It changed the entire region. It changed how bridges are built.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind. That’s why we’re here today.”
New Orleans – Four Years and Counting: Talking with Ray Reggie
By Joan Brunwasser
Welcome to OpEdNews, Ray. You’re the president of the board of Just the Right Attitude, (http://www.jtra.org/) the New Orleans food bank/soup kitchen (http://www.FoodBankNola.org) But right now, I’d like you to switch hats. There is still so much to be done to rebuild your fine city. As a reminder, I’m collecting and sharing Katrina stories. I understand that you have a humdinger. Can you tell our readers a bit about it.
“>Looking back four years ago to when Hurricane Katrina’s waters poured into New Orleans, I have this constant image of my first of many rescues. This first rescue was the worst. It was just hours after the flood waters began to rise when I heard the loud, repeated barking of a large dog at my front steps. My house at the time abutted the 17th Street canal – the canal that failed and flooded so much of New Orleans.
When I approached the door, I saw a large black dog barking profusely. I realized something was wrong. I grabbed two brooms and jumped in a commandeered small boat (pirogue) and paddled to my friend Web Deadman’s house. I knew the dog belonged to Web and that something must have been wrong.
When I got there, I realized Web was in bad shape – in the water and having a hard time breathing. I was able to pull him up on his lawn and out of the water but was unsuccessful in keeping him breathing. He passed away. All I could do was to go back to my house. I brought a sheet and wrapped his body in it after I propped him up on a pillow from his couch and wrote his name and my information on his arm for identification purposes. I sprinkled Web with holy water from my church and blessed salt and prayed for his soul.
Sadly, Web would remain on his front lawn for several days until I could get a body bag from Acadian Ambulance and place him in it and get the ambulance to take him to the makeshift morgue in St. Gabriel. It would take me over a week to make contact with Web’s relatives and let them know that my first rescue was a failure.
I had failed at saving my neighbor’s life. It is a horrible memory – one that appears in my mind often and especially when the anniversary of Katrina approaches. It made me so much more determined to never fail again while rescuing. I question myself often.
What could I have done differently to have saved Web? I beat myself up hard often and can only pray for his soul. I keep telling myself that I did everything I could, even though it was not enough. I will always remember that dark, eerie, quiet night, when Web’s dog was barking non-stop and will continue to question why. Why did he have to die? Why couldn’t I have saved him?
What a powerful and very personal story. You did your absolute best and it just wasn’t enough. But, what happened to your neighbor didn’t put an end to your attempts to rescue others. So you obviously didn’t climb into bed and pull the blankets over your head. What happened next? Was your own home underwater?
While I was saddened and depressed, it made me more determined to rescue as many people as I could. At daylight the next morning, I went to Ms. Dru, my 90+ year old neighbor and demanded she leave. She said she would stay. I had to tell her that Web had passed away and that I was insisting she leave. She finally agreed. I helped her in a boat that I was able to “borrow” and floated her out of the neighborhood on a route that wouldn’t allow her to see Web laid out on his front lawn.
“The boat didn’t have a plug in the drain so Ms. Dru had to bail the water out with a small bucket while I pulled her to a staging area. Then, I was able to get her on the back of a dump truck and on her long long journey to Lafayette. I was able to make contact with her niece and nephew in Oklahoma and they immediately started driving down to pick Ms. Dru up and bring her to their home, where Ms. Dru started volunteering, just like she did all her life in New Orleans. One of the best days of my life was seeing Ms. Dru coming down our street months later – she had returned! The neighborhood would never be the same without Ms. Dru
I continued rescuing every day in my neighborhood until I was certain that I had every neighbor out safely. I have one more very challenging rescue that still gives me chills. It was Wednesday after Katrina. I was at the bridge on Metairie Road over the 17th Street Canal when a thin, young woman walked up to me. She asked if I was in charge. I explained to her that no one was in charge.
“She then started crying and asked me to help her by rescuing her baby. She went on to tell me that her 28 day old son was left in her home on Hamilton Street in the Hollygrove area of New Orleans. She explained to me that she couldn’t swim and that she didn’t know what to do, as her mom didn’t even know she had a baby.
I was lucky enough to get a boat owner to take me on his airboat to the house. While he stayed on the boat, armed to protect it, I went through the now dark and flooded home to find the baby boy in a closet on a pillow, wearing only a diaper. He was not in the flood waters yet. I grabbed him and had to dunk him in the water to get him out of the house as the water was so high. I washed his face off with water from my water bottle and we rushed this tiny baby to an ambulance and with the grace of God, the baby was taken to a hospital in Baton Rouge. I was unable to find the mother of the baby for over four weeks.
“When I found her, she hugged me and we both sat there and cried and cried and cried. The baby boy made it, thanks to the help of the generous boat owner who risked his life to safe this baby boy. I say risked because the gunfire on Wednesday was horrible and his boat was a hot commodity. We were both determined to save the boy. Especially after losing my neighbor Web, I wanted to save this 28 day old boy!
We were blessed not to have had flood waters in our home. We did have a fire that burned our den down the month after Katrina when Entergy was working on the power lines and a surge blew out of electrical boxes and started a fire.
Wow. I’d forgotten all about the gunfire. I’m sure your exploits made you a neighborhood legend. Did most of these folks eventually return and rebuild?
“A lot of residents returned to the three streets that make up that neighborhood. Although several people (me included) have sold and moved for various reasons, it was and is the best neighborhood in the city! A very close knit group of caring, fun loving people. Katrina brought the neighborhood closer and more connected especially when my friend Gibbons Burke set up a neighborhood-exclusive Google group email service – one that allows only neighbors to communicate. That was key when people were spread out across the country all looking for information.
That group email later became a helpful tool when people attempted to find a repair man, contractor, baby sitter, or report suspicious activity. Today, thanks to Gibbons, that group email is used daily by the neighbors to communicate. That has also been a bond to bring people together – as communication is a key and Gibbons had the foresight to see that we needed it four years ago as well as today.
That’s a great idea. Someone should take it to the mayor or governor for the future emergency planning. Anything you’d like to add, Ray?
Not having to evacuate once this hurricane season was such a relief. I hope that we can get the flood protection we need to make New Orleans safe and never have another Katrina wreck our city and lives again. Thank you, Joan.
Amen to that.Many people were lucky indeed to have you as their neighbor during Katrina. Thanks for sharing your story, Ray. It was a great one to kick off this series.
Reposted by Ray Reggie as we approach the 2013 Hurricane season in New Orleans.
It should be noted that I just attended Ms. Dru’s 100th Birthday celebration! What a God send she is! We enjoyed the day talking about funny times and the day I forced her to evacuate after Katrina. She is blessed to have wonderful nieces and nephews, who, like me, love Ms. Dru very much!