It seems to me it would be almost sacrilegious
to write about anything in this issue other than the massive
misery and destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina.
I'll begin by describing my own personal experience
with this storm.
As far as I can remember, Hurricane Katrina wasn't
even mentioned on the news until Tuesday or Wednesday of last
week. At that time, it was described as "something we didn't
have to worry much about." The weather forecasters said
it might hit southeastern Florida but, it would probably hit
as a tropical storm or a very weak Category 1 hurricane. For
those of you who don't live in "hurricane country",
to qualify as a Category 1 hurricane, it has to have sustained
winds of at least 74 miles per hour.
On Thursday, I was scheduled to fly out of Miami
to Baltimore to speak at the Agora Internet Marketing Seminar.
(Which, by the way, was an excellent seminar.) My plane was
scheduled to leave mid-afternoon. But I was afraid it wouldn't
take off before the winds got so strong from the "outskirts"
of Hurricane Katrina, all the flights from Miami International
Airport would be delayed or outright canceled.
I considered myself very fortunate as I was able
to board the plane. Once on it, I strapped myself in and we
rolled out onto the runway. And there we sat. And sat. And sat.
Our plane remained on the tarmac for two hours. Was it because
Hurricane Katrina's winds were holding us back? No. We sat on
that tarmac for two hours... because...
We Had A Malfunctioning
Toilet In The Back Of The Plane!
All the while, I kept thinking, "Come
on, let's get this baby in the air. If we don't leave fairly
soon, they're going to shut down the airport and I won't be
able to make the trip. We can do without a toilet for a couple
Finally, the restroom problem was fixed by a maintenance
crew and we got off the ground and headed toward Baltimore.
The flight was nice. I met an interesting woman
from Columbia who was starting a business of importing mahogany
caskets. She and I laughed and joked and discussed marketing
while waiting on the tarmac and during the entire flight.
When I arrived in Baltimore, the people were courteous,
the city was clean and charming, the hotel was first class.
The people I met, especially those from Agora, could not have
been more accommodating and friendly.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch (meaning Miami),
the "nothing to worry about" hurricane did come ashore.
It came in about 25 miles north of where I live in Miami. And
then, the hurricane lived up to the name given it by the mayor
of New Orleans (he called it the "x-factor hurricane").
Hurricane Katrina made almost a 90 degree left turn and
headed dead south for Miami. The weather stations clocked gusts
of winds of 95 miles per hour about 2 miles south of where I
live. Then Katrina made a right turn and headed in a westerly
direction into the Gulf of Mexico.
Then, in almost no time whatsoever, Katrina morphed
into the biggest Category 5 hurricane (meaning sustained winds
topped 155 miles per hour) in recorded history. I don't think
I need to describe to you what has happened since. It is the
biggest natural catastrophe in United States history and it
virtually dominates the news.
I'll talk about the problems being experienced
by the people in the hardest hit Gulf states (Louisiana, Mississippi
and Alabama) in a moment. But first, I'd like to tell you a
little bit about what this "nothing to worry about"
hurricane did to Miami.
As of yesterday, there were still 70,000 people
living here without electrical power. The estimated hurricane
damage to the Miami area is 100 million dollars. And
we are the people who got off "easy".
Just as a personal note, I didn't fly back from
Baltimore until Monday and Miami was, I would guess 85% back
to normal then.
Anyway, some of my well meaning, good hearted
friends in marketing are organizing various hurricane relief
efforts. I, myself, am not. At least, not yet.
Back when Hurricane Andrew demolished the southern
tip of Florida in August, 1992, the devastation was unbelievable.
Homestead and Florida City (hardest hit areas just south of
Miami) were completed ravaged by Andrew. Hurricane Andrew virtually
flattened that region. A couple of days after Andrew went through,
I hired a pilot in a single engine airplane to fly me over these
areas. I hung out of the airplane with a friend hanging onto
my legs so I wouldn't fall to earth, and I took hundreds of
photos with my trusty Leica M6 camera.
Those photos were used by the government to help
document the extent of the hurricane damage. They were also
shown on television while I was being interviewed describing
the damage. The most dramatic of the photos appeared in the
newspaper, "The Key West Citizen" and they eventually
hung for weeks in a Key West art gallery.
But the most important thing those photographs
helped me to do was... raise money for Hurricane Andrew
What I did was, I held a hurricane relief seminar
in Key West, Florida at the Holiday Inn. I didn't charge one
single penny for the attendees to come. All I asked is that
each of them make a donation to the Red Cross to be used to
help the victims of Hurricane Andrew.
I also said no one could make a donation until
the end of the seminar. The reason I did that was I wanted to
put on the best seminar humanly possible... so that... people
would be encouraged to donate in a very generous manner.
I also had the most dramatic of my hurricane destruction
photographs enlarged to poster size and displayed them all around
the seminar room.
After looking at those blown-up pictures of the
obliterated areas, and listening to me and my other speakers
teach them all about marketing for days on end, my attendees
donated so much money to the Red Cross for Hurricane Andrew
Relief... that when the Red Cross lady was given the total check...
She Actually Burst Into Tears!
I was told I had raised more money for the victims
of Hurricane Andrew than any other individual. That was not
true. It was me and hundreds of my loyal readers who raised
that money. I certainly in no way did it alone. I was only the
spark that ignited a firestorm of generosity.
However, I'm not sure I would do it exactly the
same way again. I've heard some things about the Red Cross which
makes me think twice about that organization. I've heard from
veterans of World War II who said the Red Cross would come close
to the front lines where our boys were fighting with hot coffee
and donuts... and then... charge them for this "service".
I don't know if this is true but, I've heard numerous stories
like this from a number of different people.
And then after the terrorist planes hit on September
11, millions, tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions
of dollars were donated to the Red Cross for the express purpose
of helping the 9/11 victims. Unfortunately, a large portion
of that money was NOT given to the victims of 9/11.
The Red Cross then explained when money is donated
to them, they put it all into a big pot and distribute it to
people who need it, as the Red Cross sees fit. That's sure not
how the generous people who donated money to the Red Cross specifically
for the victims of 9/11 intended it to be used.
Also, there has been somewhat of a scandal a few
years back about the executives of the Red Cross siphoning off
a good deal of the money donated to that organization. The funds
were not used for humanitarian purposes... but rather... put
into these executives' own pockets.
Don't get me wrong. I don't mean to paint the
Red Cross with a black brush. It's just I am now skeptical about
how they use the money they get from all generous citizens who
want to help their far-away neighbors experiencing unexpected
suffering. Like with Hurricane Andrew. And now Hurricane Katrina.
Actually, I'd like to hear from some of my readers.
If any of you have stories about the Red Cross... either negative
or positive... I'd love to read those stories. Write me at
Now, let's move forward to the hurricanes which
hit Florida last year. In case you don't live in Florida, I'll
remind you we had four major hurricanes hit this state in
just six weeks. (Charley, Dennis, Ivan and Jeanne.) The
damage was astounding. Something like 3 out of 5 homes in Florida
suffered damage or complete destruction from those hurricanes.
At that time, I tried to help by giving a very
informative telemarketing conference which people could listen
to for free. All I asked in return was they donate to the victims
of the destructive hurricanes. Back then, we didn't ask the
donations be made to the Red Cross. That's because my assistant,
Theresa, did her own investigation to find out where donations
should be sent...
So All The Money Would Actually
Be Delivered Directly To The Victims
Of Those Hurricanes!
She found the best organization to distribute
the money was the Rotary Club in Punta Gorda (near Ft. Myers,
Florida where Hurricane Charley hit). I don't know how much
money we raised by our efforts (since the donations went straight
to the Rotary Club). I hope it was considerable and I'm sure
every penny helped.
Now, let's talk about FEMA. FEMA is the United
States' governmental organization which dispenses money to victims
of natural disasters.
Last year, during those four major hurricanes,
the places that got the most money... and... got it almost immediately...
were the cities of Miami (Dade County) and Ft. Lauderdale (Broward
County). That's kind of curious. These are the two counties
who suffered the least hurricane damage in nearly
all of Florida. The truth is, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale completely
lucked out... but... a number of slick, savvy, sleazy people
filed fraudulent claims and got paid enormous amounts of money
What about the people who got crushed by Charley,
Dennis, Ivan and Jeanne? The folks in Punta Gorda? Orlando?
Pensacola? The cities which were almost leveled? Many of these
individuals have not yet collected any relief money whatsoever
from FEMA. Many of them are still homeless, broke, and have
received no aid whatsoever.
Let's shuck right down to the cob: If there were
a contest for the two most corrupt cities in the United States,
New Orleans and Miami would be duking it out for top position.
The governments of both Miami and New Orleans are both so incredibly
corrupt, if it weren't so tragic, it would be laughable. But,
as corrupt as the governments of those cities are, there are
hundreds of thousands of other people who live in those areas
who are honest, decent, God-fearing people, who do their best
to do whatever they can to make the world a better place.
So, how do we help the people of New Orleans,
Biloxi, and Gulfport? Do we send a check to the Red Cross and
allow them to spend it any way they choose?
Even if any governmental agency did want to send
a check to the afflicted people, it was pointed out on the news
this morning, there are no banks within a number of miles where
they could cash those checks. There are no ATM machines. There
are no supermarkets. There are no check cashing type businesses.
Even if those people could get a check... and
even if they could cash those checks... there's not even any
place to spend the money. No Wal-Mart's, no K-Mart's, no Home
Depot's, no Lowe's, no Publix's, no Winn Dixie's, no Chevron's,
no Amoco's, and by the most recent estimate of the mayor of
There Will Not Be Enough Electricity
To Illuminate A Single Light Bulb
In That City For At Least
12 To 16 Weeks!
What should we do? How can we help these people?
The truth is, I don't know.
At least I don't know yet.
If any of you have any ideas about this, I'd like
to hear them. I personally feel the pain of the people who are
suffering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. I, too, would
like to help to the best of my ability. But right now, I just
don't know how.
I'm thinking I might hold a gigantic free seminar.
I'd ask each of the attendees to make a generous donation to
help the victims of this terrible disaster. But the truth is,
I don't know who or what organization the donations should be
This disaster is a real bitch. It's the worst
in the entire history of our country. People are already playing
the "blame game". They're blaming the mayor of New
Orleans, the governor of Louisiana, the U.S. army, the U.S.
government, the engineers who built the levees, and on and on
and on. But the truth is, it's pretty difficult to anticipate
and prepare for a disastrous event of this magnitude which has
caused problems never faced in our history.
To sum it all up, I'd like to help but I don't
know how. If any of you have any ideas, please share them with
me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, I think the best thing we can
do right now is simply... pray for these people.