A recovery mission of a different kind


Sawyer Real Estate in Gulfport, Miss. was founded by Lenny Sawyer’s great grandfather in 1901. But when Katrina hit, it seemed most of that legacy would be wiped out. The firm’s office, which had been 200 feet from the beach, was devastated. Wind ripped the structure to pieces, and a storm surge left 6 feet of standing water on everything inside. The firm’s 14 critical computers lay somewhere under a pile of rubble.

Sawyer thought all his company’s critical electronic business records — contracts, tenant records, e-mail — were gone.

“I’m sitting in front of the building, and it looked like a war zone. … There wasn’t a wall left. Everything was in shambles,” Sawyer said. “But in the back of my mind, I remembered reading an article about [data recovery], and I said, ‘It’s probably worth us digging through the rubble to get to the hard drives.’”

The computers were a mess. Many were not only wet, but packed with sand, seaweed, and even seashells.

But Sawyer’s instincts were right — digging out the hard drives was worth it. While the computers are damaged beyond repair, much of the firm’s data has been saved.

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