BE THE BRACE: Help Charleston Recover from the COVID-19 Pandemic

2020 will forever be known as the Year of the Quarantine. The COVID-19 Pandemic is the kind of event that will be talked about for generations. It is also an event that will have long-lasting effects for individuals, our society, and our world.

For us here at Knowitall Charleston Tours, we’re a family business, and we obviously haven’t been able to escape the effects of the shutdown and quarantine. This has meant that we’ve had to take on roles as teachers to our two girls, since they haven’t been able to go to school, while trying to keep an eye on their little brother, who doesn’t even know what school is, yet, but knows that he can have a lot of fun trying to disrupt it for his sisters. I think there is definitely a market for a combination liquor cabinet/school supply cabinet.

It’s also meant that we’ve had plenty of time to do things around the house. Maybe we’ve even had too much time…

Staying Busy During Quarantine

In the roughly two months since the quarantine began, we’ve painted a few rooms at home, cleaned out just about every closet, Marie Kondo’d our garage and kitchen, and even planned and constructed built-in bookcases for our front room (all of my Charleston-related books needed some place to go, lol).

Along with keeping the kids up-to-date on their schoolwork, making sure that the quarantine isn’t more disruptive to their lives than it needs to be, and crossing off just about everything on our home projects list, we’ve had a lot of time to reflect on what this time means for us in the larger context of the history of Charleston.

Charleston Faces Disease, Disaster, and War

We keep hearing that this current time is “unprecedented.” And maybe, for some people in some places, it is unprecedented; but here in Charleston, this is far from being the first event that has shut down the city.

Over its 350-year history, Charleston has been forced to deal with disease, disaster, and even war. Every time, these events left indelible marks on the city, its people, and its culture that give us something to draw from today, during this latest episode.

I’ve recently spent more time studying one of the most historic events that impacted the whole of Charleston and the Lowcountry, to see what I might be able to learn that would help us today– the earthquake of 1886.

The Charleston Earthquake of 1886

Many people aren’t even aware that Charleston was ever struck by an earthquake. In fact, the earthquake of 1886 was one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded on the East Coast of the United States. They didn’t have the Richter Scale to measure earthquake intensity in 1886, but geologists today estimate that the 1886 earthquake would have measured between 6.9-7.3 on the Richter Scale. For reference, the 1989 earthquake that struck San Francisco measured 6.9.

The earthquake of 1886 nearly destroyed Charleston. Almost every brick building in the city suffered some kind of damage. Many homes and buildings were destroyed, and many others suffered significant damage. In the moments after the earthquake struck, the majority of the city’s residents found themselves homeless. 60 people lost their lives.

While the damage from our current pandemic has yet to be quantified, we know already that it is significant. Lives have been lost, businesses have been lost, and the city that we love will forever be different as a result.

These two extraordinary events, the earthquake and the pandemic, are very different from each other in many ways; but there is one way in which they are similar that can be of use to us now– extraordinary events require extraordinary responses.

Lessons in Recovery

In 1886, the people of Charleston and the Lowcountry had to come together very quickly in order to provide assistance to people immediately, and also to develop plans and a way forward to recover from the disaster and rebuild the city.

We find ourselves in much the same position right now. We find that if Charleston is to endure and recover from the effects of the pandemic, it will require a great coming together, a plan for recovery, and a commitment to see the plan through to success.

We have a personal interest in the recovery. At the beginning of the year, our plan was to launch our walking tours on March 15th. Ironically, that eventually became the same week that the city of Charleston shut down all tour activity in the city.

Despite the fact that we have been unable to conduct any tours, we remain committed to our mission to bring walking tours to Charleston that will change the way people think about the tour experience and make people fall in love with the history, culture, and people of Charleston just as we have. It’s just that right now, we can’t do that.

But we also know that the people of Charleston and the Lowcountry need help. Many of them are worried about what the future holds. Just like in the moments after the earthquake of 1886, many people are in a haze, wondering what will come next, and how they can possibly move forward.

That lead us to ask ourselves, “what can an out-of-work tour guide do to help, when there are so many who need help?” So we thought about it, and we looked out for ways that we might be able to help, and we listened to what others were saying, and we came up with a plan…

Our Plan to Help

We came up with a plan similar to what engineers had to do in the aftermath of the 1886 earthquake. They were very worried about future earthquakes, and they wanted a way to shore up the thousands of brick structures in the city that were obviously vulnerable. To do that, they needed to brace the buildings, and they decided to use earthquake bolts.

Earthquake bolts effectively brace the walls of a structure so that they will be held together during a quake, and can be used to adjust the walls after a quake so that the building can maintain its structural integrity. In the years after the earthquake, these bolts were installed on the remaining brick buildings, and you can still see them all over Charleston today.

But what do earthquake bolts have to do with our plan to help during this time?

Be the Brace

Much like those earthquake bolts, we want to be the brace that brings Charleston back together, and strengthens it for the future, and we want you to be that brace, too.

Our plan is to help the organizations that help the people of Charleston and the Lowcountry, and the organizations that function as ambassadors of our area, its history, and its culture. Organizations like The Charleston Museum and the Jenkins Institute for Children need our help.

Charleston’s history of charitable and nonprofit organizations is almost as old as the city, itself. For hundreds of years, Charleston has relied on numerous charitable and nonprofit organizations. Right now, many of those organizations are hurting because there isn’t the usual economic activity that would fund their efforts. We want to try to offer support to as many of those organizations as we can, because they need to be preserved if the recovery of Charleston from this pandemic is going to be a success story.

The way we are going to help is by doing short video tours that will highlight something of significance that is related to an organization. We’re going to use these videos to encourage donations to a different organization with each video.

100% of everything donated with go directly to each organization. Everything. Whatever we can raise.

This is where we’re going to need your help…

Let’s Spread the Word

Sure, we would love it if you would watch the videos and donate to the organizations they highlight, but we’re also going to need your help with things that don’t require any donation at all.

If you know of a nonprofit that could benefit and that we should highlight, please let us know. Send us a private message through Facebook, or Instagram. You can also send an email to:

If you like the videos but can’t donate, no worries, just take the time to share the videos and spread the word to others so that we can raise as many funds as possible. We don’t have any grand expectations for how much we can raise together, but we know that the more, the better.

We’re going to try to do these videos as frequently as we can, so we can help as many organizations as we can. Our hope is that we can keep on doing them, even when walking tours are allowed in the city again.

But until that time, we’re going to do what we can to help. We’re going to use the skills that we have to bring people together to shore up the organizations in our community that have contributed so much to it in the past, and will be vital for its success in the future.

These organizations, Charleston, and the Lowcountry need support. They need some shoring up. They need support that can get them through this difficult time, and make them stronger for the future. They need us to be the brace. And that’s exactly what we are going to do.

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