"It was a tremendous experience, really moving," said Danae Columbus of London Livery Limited'sSeptember assignment to transport Pope John Paul lI's entourage. The New Orleans limousine service provides transportation for most major events in the area, Columbus said, but this was by far the most exciting.
"New Orleans is a largely Catholic area," Columbus added, "and of course all of our Catholic chauffeurs were thrilled by the experience, but even non-Catholics were moved. He has such a radiance."
Alan Fisher of London Livery Ltd. had been working with the Transportation Committee for a year before the pope's visit. The original plan, he said, was for his service to be used for transporting the bishops and cardinals.
"The archdiocese wanted out of the transportation end," Fisher said, "So we ended up doing everything except one bullet proof limousine, which was provided by the Secret Service, and the Popemobile."
London Livery supplied six vehicles for the official motorcade, and provided all transportation for the Papal Mass.
"I drove in the motorcade," Fisher said. "It was pretty difficult. We drove between 60 and 70 miles per hour, with only half a car length between each vehicle."
Fisher, whose service has been used for presidential and vice presidential motorcades, said he has never worked on anything that com pared in scope or size to the pope's visit, nor has he ever seen such tight security.
"I've never been so nervous in my life," he remembered. "We had everything to lose. When you're in an event like that, there's no room for error. But everything was wonderful."
This isn't just Fisher's personal opinion. Of the 10 cities visited by the pope, New Orleans was rated the best in terms of organization.
"There were a lot of things we did without telling the archdiocese about," Fisher said. "For instance, they didn't realize that for something like this we'd need back up vehicles. So we had back up limousines and mini buses strategically placed all over the route, and we used them in every instance, to take a bishop back to the hotel or something like that. That kind of thing makes a company look good, when they need some thing and you've thought ahead to provide it."
Fisher agrees with Danae Columbus that the pope's visit was a moving experience. "No matter what religion you are, even if you don't agree with what he says, spiritually the man has a presence that can't be denied," he said. "And for the Catholic employees, the opportunity to work shoulder to shoulder with him and his people was fantastic. Some of the drivers got tipped in rosaries, and they'll tell you it was the best tip they ever received."
"We earned the right to do this," Fisher concluded. "This type of thing has very little to do with who you know, and a lot to do with how you perform. Everybody in the company was involved, and it was great for them to know that they are good enough, because they really are the best."
Fisher is already planning to be come involved in New Orleans' next major event: the 1988 Republican National Convention in August.