Imagine waking up one morning and losing everything, through no fault of your own. Your home, family, friends and lucrative career, gone in an instant. On August 29th, 2005, Hurricane Katrina rocked the city of New Orleans, wreaking havoc like no other natural disaster in modern history. This is the story of Jason Lapene, an ordinary man who overcame extraordinary obstacles to reinvent himself hundreds of miles away in Atlanta. "I can remember seeing my entire city under water and confused if any of my friends were stuck in their homes. It was so hot, and I was hungry and without water I started to hallucinate and see Tornados coming.
Unfortunately, watching dogs pull dead bodies out of the water was not an illusion, a haunting image which stays with me” - Jason Lapene Like thousands of others, nothing was left in New Orleans for Jason. Through sheer happenstance, a CNN crew filming the devastation was headed to Atlanta. He managed to convince the crew to bring him along for the ride, where a chilling reality set in once in Georgia - Jason was homeless, jobless, and without friends or family.
Everyone he knew was either in New Orleans or Tennessee. FEMA helped Jason not slip through the cracks as another statistic by providing temporary housing at a local Hampton Inn in Buckhead. Emotionally distraught and financially ruined, meals and a warm bed were a blessing during this desperate time of need. Sitting in a strange hotel room, Jason was left with two major decisions: wallow in self-pity, or reinvent himself. Prior to Katrina, Jason was a successful realtor in the New Orleans area. With a growing affluent clientele, he was well-liked and sought after for homes and condos. Now, in an unfamiliar city, with zero connections or stability, Jason decided to leverage the skillets he acquired over the years, and study the Atlanta real estate market.
With no money or clean clothes, he set off to a Salvation Army for decent outfits to look presentable during interviews. Interviews are stressful as is, but Jason had to appear stoic even though he was homeless, penniless, hungry and distraught. The larger brokers in Atlanta told him he should give up and do something else because he essentially had to start over in Georgia. This outright rejection was the catalyst which lit a flame so daring and bright inside Jason it would burn the waters which flooded his beloved city. No longer seeing himself as a victim, Jason set out to prove you can reinvent yourself and come back from devastating defeats. Not wanting permission from others to succeed, Jason decided to take another leap of faith and go into business for himself, obtaining his broker's license.
With a background in computer science, Jason also built his Atlanta Real Estate website, to attract potential buyers online. The phone was silent for nearly a year, while Jason laid the groundwork through networking and cold calling. Finally the pump was primed, and efforts began to pay off, fast. Nowhere to fail to, Jason put his entire life force into the local real estate market. Momentum was back on his side, as others quickly began to recommend Jason to friends and family. The same corporate brokers who turned him down only a year earlier, were now begging to have him on their team. Years have passed since Katrina.
Today, Jason is a multi-million dollar producer in the Atlanta real estate market and one of the most respected negotiators in the industry. His website gets thousand of visitors a month, and he receives referrals each day. Most importantly he treats existing clients with respect and gratitude, as he knows, more so than most, how important relationships are both personally and professionally.
Jason will forever be grateful to the city of Atlanta, for giving a man with no connections or money an opportunity to become successful. Katrina devastated the lives of countless thousands, and many have bounced back, while generations are still left picking up the pieces, literally and figuratively. This is the story of Jason Lapene, a true riches to rags, back to riches story, where tenacity, luck, and the welcoming oasis city of Atlanta Georgia help keep the American dream alive and well.