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Elliott Electric Sees Recovery of Shuttle Debris in Nacogdoches Up Close

Feb. 7, 2003
Elliott Electric's Bill Elliott comments on how the search for Space Shuttle debris has affected Nacogdoches.

The quiet east Texas town of Nacogdoches is usually far from the television cameras of the national media. But last week Nacogdoches found itself in the public eye when over 2,500 pieces of debris from the space shuttle Columbia fell on the town of 29,000-plus residents. Bill Elliott, president of the Nacogdoches-based Elliott Electric, has been keeping tabs on the recovery efforts since the space shuttle Columbia broke apart last Saturday morning. The media swooped in on downtown Nacogdoches to conduct interviews after falling debris blew open the doors of a bank and pieces of the space shuttle fell throughout the area. Elliott said he and his employees have not found any objects from the space shuttle on the company’s three properties in the town or on any of their individual properties. While much of the media interest in Nacogdoches has subsided since the disaster, Elliott has seen an outpouring of support from the community. Volunteers from the fire department and other groups are guarding the fallen debris until federal authorities can collect the objects and take them to Barksdale Air Force base in Louisiana. The forestry department from the local university has also been involved in the search and recovery efforts and has been busy retrieving the parts and using GPS mapping to show where they fell. Meanwhile, the community has shown its support by placing flowers and memorabilia in the areas where parts of the space shuttle were discovered. “Many people have gathered around these things, put flowers on them, and expressed their sentiments,” Elliott said. He planned to attend a community-wide commemorative event on Feb. 6. Elliott hasn’t visited the debris sites. “I really felt like adding to a crowd that was simply looking at pieces of the shuttle didn’t make a lot of sense,” he said. According to a Feb. 3 press release posted on the city of Nacogdoches’ Web site, the U. S. Army and Air Force sent Black Hawk helicopters and UH-60 aircraft to aid in the search for debris from the explosion. Nacogdoches was designated as the federal staging area for all military aircraft.