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  • Mississippi Oral History Program

    Hurricane Katrina Oral History Project

    An Oral History

    with

    David Elliott

    Interviewer: James Pat Smith

    Volume 994 2009

    This transcript is for reference and research purposes only. It is protected by copyright. Permission to publish must be requested from the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage. Contact information can be found at http://www.usm.edu/oral-history.

  • 2011 The University of Southern Mississippi This transcription of an oral history by The Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage of The University of Southern Mississippi may not be reproduced or published in any form except that quotation of short excerpts of unrestricted transcripts and the associated tape recordings is permissible providing written consent is obtained from The Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage. When literary rights have been retained by the interviewee, written permission to use the material must be obtained from both the interviewee and The Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage. This oral history is a transcript of a taped conversation. The transcript was edited and punctuation added for readability and clarity. People who are interviewed may review the transcript before publication and are allowed to delete comments they made and to correct factual errors. Additions to the original text are shown in brackets [ ]. Minor deletions are not noted. Original tapes and transcripts are on deposit in the McCain Library and Archives on the campus of The University of Southern Mississippi.

    Louis Kyriakoudes, Director The Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage

    118 College Drive #5175 The University of Southern Mississippi

    Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001 601-266-4574

    An Oral History with David Elliott, Volume 994 Interviewer: James Pat Smith Transcriber: Carol Short Editors: Micah Dean Hicks, Stephanie Scull-DeArmey

    This transcript is for reference and research purposes only. It is protected by copyright. Permission to publish must be requested from the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage. Contact information can be found at http://www.usm.edu/oral-history.

  • Biography

    Mr. David Elliott was born November 20, 1956, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Mr. Leonard B. Elliott and Mrs. Joan Day Elliott. His father was a professor of communications at The University of Minnesota, and he worked for Minnesota Public Television. His paternal grandfather was a pharmacist, and his grandparents had emigrated from Russia and Romania to come to the United States. His mother was a homemaker with five children. On February 14, 1987, he married Loretta Lejean (born December 14, 1954, in Lafourche Parish, Louisiana). They have one son, Bart Elliott.

    Elliott attended high school in Minneapolis and in California. He earned his BA in speech communications from The University of Minnesota. Additionally he attended Brown Institute, graduating with training in radio. His first job was in Jackson, Mississippi, with WTIX. In 1985 he began working at WLOX-TV as a newscaster, where he was employed at the time of this interview.

    Elliott enjoys reading, following politics and American social trends, golfing, and managing rental and vacation homes. He has earned awards from the Boys and Girls Club, the Lions Club, and the Associated Press.

    This transcript is for reference and research purposes only. It is protected by copyright. Permission to publish must be requested from the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage. Contact information can be found at http://www.usm.edu/oral-history.

  • Table of Contents Personal history ........................................................................................................... 1 Education and work history ........................................................................................ 2 Other interests and activities ....................................................................................... 4 Family ......................................................................................................................... 4 Working at WLOX, Mississippi Gulf Coast, and Jimmy Love .................................. 6 Hurricane plan at WLOX ............................................................................................ 7 Personal experience of Hurricane Elena ..................................................................... 7 Managing another hurricane-threatened home in Destin, Florida .............................. 7 Duties as news anchor during hurricanes.................................................................... 8 Preparing for Hurricane Katrina ................................................................................. 8 Hurricane Georges ...................................................................................................... 8 Making the decision to evacuate ................................................................................. 8 WLOX decides to cover Katrina twenty-four/seven .................................................. 9 Exposure vs. protection of reporters during storms .................................................. 10 Station staffs behaviors during Katrina ................................................................... 10 Getting information to broadcast during storm ......................................................... 11 Radio partners during storm...................................................................................... 11 Katrina blows roof off stations newsroom during broadcast ................................... 11 Moving to bunker-like room to stay on air ............................................................... 13 Driving out into Katrina, Dubuys Road and Pass Road ............................................ 13 Swimming for their lives .......................................................................................... 13 Parameters given to reporters venturing into Katrinas aftermath, 2:30 p.m. ........... 14 Railroad tracks demarcate surge and debris line....................................................... 14 Irony of advising public to evacuate ......................................................................... 14 Damage to home in Bayou View .............................................................................. 15 Newscasters as emergency first responders ........................................................ 16, 26 No phone service, scarce gasoline and diesel fuel .............................................. 16, 20 Cell phone with Florida area code works ................................................................. 16 Sleeping on floor at station ....................................................................................... 16 Rental property becomes home ................................................................................. 17 Camaraderie at Camp WLOX ............................................................................. 17, 24 Getting food after the storm ...................................................................................... 17 Corporation brings in crews from other TV stations ................................................ 18 Bay St. Louis office .................................................................................................. 18 Reporting the news after Katrina .............................................................................. 19 Getting fuel for generator .......................................................................................... 20 Cooperating with newspaper to provide information to the public .......................... 20 Obstacles facing reporters after storm ...................................................................... 20 Problems with out-of-state law enforcement volunteers .......................................... 21 Gulfport High School ................................................................................................ 22 Insurance issues .................................................................................................. 22, 25 Mississippi Development Authority grants .............................................................. 23 WLOX repairs its location half a mile from the beach ............................................. 24 Worst memory of Katrina ......................................................................................... 25

    This transcript is for reference and research purposes only. It is protected by copyright. Permission to publish must be requested from the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage. Contact information can be found at http://www.usm.edu/oral-history.

  • Worst frustration in recovery .................................................................................... 25 Best memory of Katrina ............................................................................................ 25 Goodness in people who survived ............................................................................ 25 Lessons learned from Katrina ................................................................................... 26

    This transcript is for reference and research purposes only. It is protected by copyright. Permission to publish must be requested from the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage. Contact information can be found at http://www.usm.edu/oral-history.

  • AN ORAL HISTORY

    with

    DAVID ELLIOTT This is an interview for the Mississippi Oral History Program of The University of Southern Mississippi. The interview is with David Elliott and is taking place on August 31, 2009. The interviewer is James Pat Smith.