MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Hurricane Dorian is a family tragedy for the president of Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU).
Dr. Sidney McPee’s own family and his family at MTSU are both deeply affected.
“We were aware that she was missing,” said the university president about the relative he lost in the hurricane.
His brother’s granddaughter J’Vonaje Ford, who is McPhee’s grandniece, was swept away earlier this week in the ferocious floodwaters of the hurricane storm surge that hit Freeport, Bahamas. Relatives told McPhee the young woman had sought shelter in her home’s attic with a male friend.
“The water came up to that level and so her and a friend moved out and got on a tree,” said President McPhee from his MTSU office Friday. “(The friend) had to go back to get somebody else and when he returned, she was not there, and they found her body later.”
In the midst of grief, the university president, who is a native Bahamian, is spearheading school relief efforts for the seven MTSU students whose families live in Freeport and the Abaco islands of the Bahamas. Dr. McPhee says those families lost everything.
“I have spoken to every one of (the students). I have spoken to their families. They have sent list of needs – food, clothes, water, medications,” said McPhee.
He added two planes are being readied to fly the precious supplies needed by the families of the MTSU students.
“We have made contact with the Bahamian government. We have a minister, very influential in Freeport, that will help us get those items to the various families,” said the MTSU president, who plans to be on board when the planes leave from Murfreesboro early Sunday.
He added they plan to come back the same day with the possibility of making a second trip later next week.
The president says donations for the relief have come from not only from MTSU’s hometown of Murfreesboro, but nationwide.
Dr. McPhee said his other family members in the Bahamas were safe with the exception of one relative who had a missing 81-year-old grandmother. He added that a first cousin and his family “had nothing but the clothes on their backs” after his home and family bakery business were destroyed by the hurricane.