Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Disaster Recovery

One common comment I have heard since Katrina has been "well, they didn't teach you about this at seminary, did they?".
No, they didn't.
But, as someone who spent 20+ years in the banking world, in Data Processing, I should have been better prepared.
As a mainframe systems programmer, we were required not just to have published disaster plans, but to test them. At least twice a year we would take backup tapes of all our systems and fly to an off site center, load the entire systems (this is WAY WAY bigger than PC network stuff, folks), get it up and running, run a day's work for the bank, establish communications links to branches in Mississippi, etc. It was HARD stuff but very important. We utilized two offsite vaults and backups were sent to each every day - in case the "disaster" affected one vault as well as our main location.
To make it more realistic, at times the auditors would come in a declare a "surprise" disaster test. Part of the surprise was to mark certain staff members as MIA - so they could not participate in the test, nor were they allowed to communicate with those who were. We had 4 folks on my staff, and two would be exempt, really testing how well we documented our plan and cross trained our staff.
So here comes Katrina, and you would think I would have had a better plan. Now I must give credit to our altar guild, as they had a written plan that they did execute - three seperate large buckets were loaded with altar sets - chalices, patens, linens, bread, wine, BCP, Bible - all that we needed to "do church" from one container. They were then sent to three different evacuees to take off site. All survived, so we have all our chalices, etc.
As to the church records, we loaded them to a parishioner's house who had built to withstand 150+MPH winds, and had a "safe room" made of extra reinforced concrete and steel. In it we took our Parish Register, our Services Record, our charter (when we became a parish), checks, financial records, backups of our computers. It was all wiped out by storm surge. All....gone.
Thankfully my secretary, at my suggestion, took a copy of our church database records with her, so we do have a backup to restore from once we get a computer.
I left WAY too much stuff in my office, stuff that is not replaceble. I did get all my personal stoles, but left albs (mine and my wife's), ordination certificates, some pictures, all my books. Idiot. I should know better. And I should have simply taken the desktop PCs (sans monitors and printers) with me, it would have saved us tons of time (and money).

Bottom line - you ALL need a plan and you need to TEST it too. Write it up, declare some people MIA, and try it out. You need redundant backups and you need safe places for stuff. Lots of places. Lots of stuff.
If Seabury (or any other seminary) wants me to teach a class - PLEASE let me know. I can, by example, tell how not to do it - and maybe a little of how to.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


The grace of God continues to astonish me in many ways. The numbers of people who have come to help from all over the continent are amazing. THANK YOU ALL...
I am typing this from a portable Internet trailer. A man from Canada and his Anglican Priest wife drove it down and have setup an "internet cafe" for the volunteers here. He is connected via satellite to the net. This is his business, and he is forgoing any money making opportunities to be here to help us. He told me "I knew I had to put up or shut up. I wanted to help - this was something I knew I could do".
His gift is really cool - being connected to the world is a huge thing for all of us.
Our prayers are for all those in the path of Hurricane Rita. It is so hard to believe another monster storm is upon this area. They keep sliding the path to the east, bad news for us and for New Orleans. We are already receiving rain bands here in South Mississippi, and this is bad news for all of us with tarps on our houses. While we are suffering under RECORD heat (new record highs for the last four days, we have had almost no rain since Katrina, which helps in the drying out process.
My vestry has insisted I leave for the weekend. So the LW and I are getting away from the relief center and medical clinic to spend our anniversary and to visit with our daughter at her college. We need it and will relish the time, although it will be short and way too short to do any decompressing.
I did open my new book collection the other day - THANK YOU AKMA and Mitch! It really made my spirits soar - such a simple thing.
Please keep praying and helping. We are getting such wonderful support and quite a few churches are offering to adopt St. Patrick's. We will rebuild TOGETHER. Bless you all.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Kat 5

Yes, the title is a play on words.
What a week. Hard to believe it's Saturday. I traveled north a little ways to get online access for a small time.
I am living in my home again! Water and sewer are semi-working and we slept in our own bed a couple of nights ago for the 1st time. How blessed we are to have a bed, a roof, a home. In Pass Christian it is estimated 500 homes of 8000 are inhabital! Can you see a little of how overwhelming this is? And how fortunate I feel?
Work at the relief center and medical clinic continues at an amazing pace. This week Mitch and Patrick, Seabury folks, came down and MAN did they work hard! I am totally impressed. They pitched in and did everything imaginable.
ANd they brought me gifts - some $$ and BOOKS! The generosity of folks is so wonderful and affirming. I love you all! ThANK YOU...
Today was a very productive day for me. I was able to go out and see many of my people and to contact a lot of the displaced via phone. Working at the center has kept me from doing much of that, other than on Sunday mornings. Getting re-connected is so important to me and to them and I am blessed to have people FAR better than I running the relief efforts now. Thank you God!
Gotta go, curfer coming soon. I hope to check in later next week. Thanks again to all.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Katrina 4

Here I am in front of the site of my church. Tonight I am just too tired to say much. Go to AKMA's blog for some comments. Also, please go HERE to see pictures of my church before the storm.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Katrina #3

It's way too late and I am much too tired. The day started around 6 am and after the breakfast of champions (NABS!) we headed to the school. LW got the medical clinic rolling and the relief efforts were strong and amazing all day. 200 patients, around 450 served in the relief center with food, clothes, bedding, diapers, etc. It was exhausting and humbling and wonderful and scary. I was even pressed into figuring out electrical and plumbing problems for this school, THAT is the scariest part. But the help was tremendous and loving and giving and so wonderful. Folks from all over the country, hard workers (some went and helped one of my parishioners clean out their flooded home - work they could never have completed alone), friends from my former parish came and did SO Much hard work, nurses and docs from a mobile medic team, two busses full of great people from Virginia, others in smaller groups that sorted supplies and unloaded trucks and ALL of home greeted EACH AND EVERY person as a valid, real, wonderful child of God.
I will try to sleep. It is VERY hot. Where we are staying is still without electricity, although we can take cold showers.
I have learned this - on the list of the good things in life - working plumbing (showers that run, toilets that flush) trumps working electricity (read: air conditioning). But I truly would not mind having both again. But, hey, I have a roof and all the MREs I can eat, and I had the privilege to see the face of Christ in countless people, all thanking US before we could thank them.
Keep praying........

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Katrina update 2

What a wild couple days. Let's see what I can remember.... I am totally wiped. I haven't cried yet. That's different for me, I am usually able to show emotions readily. Maybe too tired or too busy or too shocked.
Yesterday and today we spent MANY man hours (and woman hours, no doubt) preparing the local Episcopal school to be a relief center. We received amazing amounts of supplies - one trucker and his wife drove down from Canada and somehow wound up at our place with a huge load. We cleanued up some and tried to organize things.
Today was HOPPIN. We are setting up a medical clinic, I worked with folks from this amazing ministry, Water Ministry, that provides potable drinking water systems in poor countries all over the world. We put a unit in at the school so we now have drinking water. Then we worked on the power - I got my junior warden to come out and make sure we could receive power, and then THE LIGHTS CAME ON. The power company here has been doing AMAZING work. You cannot even begin to imagine the number of poles down, yet power is coming up all over.
The medical clinic is almost ready and we saw several patients today. More docs coming tomorrow. We are not sure how long this will last but we will see whoever needs us.
Tomorrow the relief part will be fully operating. We did serve a few dozen folks today, tomorrow will be very full. Word is out on radio, tv, etc. that we are there.
My LW is in charge of the medical clinic and is gleefully working hard. SHe so wanted something to do worthwhile.
Our bishop came down and all the coast clergy and spouses were together for Eucharist and annointing. It was a good time together.
At one point today the insurance adjuster for my church showed up at the school (he's their adjuster too).. I corralled the poor guy and off we went. We went to my former church site - it was still so amazing. The Bishop planted an Episcopal flag on the site. I have pictures to post, I don't really know how to do that on a blog. We went through the debris at the main building and our two back buildings. It is still hard to conceive.
I noticed the remains of houses that folks had just bought next to the church. Nothing left. Smashed cars. No furniture or freezers or anything. One VERY large beautiful new house on the beach was gone, they had been working so hard. Just the steps left.
The adjuster took pictures and I sketched out the church for him. There was no way to tell how it had looked before. No way.
Yet in the rubble earlier in the week was found my St. Pats coffee cup with my name on it, not even a chip on it.
That's enough...but this. If anyone wants to give directly to my church, you can do so. Email me and I will let you know how.

God bless
David Knight
STILL the Rector, St. Patrick's, Long Beach, Mississippi

Monday, September 05, 2005

Katrina update

Every day I hear from people, churches, groups that are helping. Money is being raised, supplies sent, etc. The major frustration is coordinating everything and finding a distribution point. We may have that settled very soon.
Meanwhile, the situation is still pretty horrible. Health concerns are mounting. We have no water or sewer and you know what that means. I am trying to get my folks OUT of town, there is not much they can do especially the homeless. I am up to 27 parishioners whose homes are completley gone. It is mind boggling.
Tempers are up and frustration levels are sky high.
We met as a church yesterday in the 105 degree heat. 45 good people, we cried together (a lot), rejoiced in our blessings, shared CHrist's body and blood together. I annointed each person with oil and prayed for them after they took communion. It was a very very moving time, I will not forget it.
Please keep thinking of ways you can help. Push your churches. Don't stop. This will be a long, long haul.
Bless you all.
David Knight
STILL THE RECTOR, St. Patrick's, Long Beach, Mississippi

Friday, September 02, 2005

It is worse than I could have imagined

I type this from Pensacola. My family did survive the storm. I escaped here today to meet my wonderful father in law who purchased a generator and gas cans for me. I finally found gas and will return Friday with gen. and gas and water and some food.
The coast of Miss. is in horrible shape. My church, which was on the beach, is completely destroyed, I rode down there today with a fireman, we salvaged our bells from the debris. That's it. Some of our more precious altar stuff was taken off site Sunday, but all else is gone (including ALL of my books - for the clergy out there you know how many that is).
We will hold services Sunday at Grace Lutheran in Long Beach at 11. After that, I don't know. But this I do know - we will get through this and we will continue to be the church.
I suspect over 30 parishioners lost their homes completely, and probably 90% of the others have significant damage. Looking north from the beach road, there is NOTHING. The storm surge too it all out, no bricks, not frames, NOTHING. It is surreal.
Tomorrow I head back. The conditions are actually worsening. No coastal community has sewer plant operations at all, the health risks are rising. I don't recall a class in seminary that covered this!
Meanwhile, my wife's job is over, the clinic she worked for is gone. And we are but two of tens of thousands in the same boat.
May God have mercy on us all.
Thank you all for your prayers. My church was St. Patrick's, Long Beach. Go to www.stpatricks.dioms.org for updates. Our wonderful webmaster lives in D.C. for now, so she can keep you posted. I will be without power or Internet (duh) until I make another supply run to Florida.