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'It breaks my heart:' Citadel football player's family loses it all to Dorian in the Bahamas

Robert Lowe is one of the most well-known fishing guides in the Bahamas, with 40 years of experience in the blue-green waters around the Abaco Islands.

"Robert Lowe is the way to go," one enthusiast recommends on a fishing forum. "Beautiful boat, top of the line tackle, and years on this water."

Lowe's sons, Elijah and Livingston, spent their youth working on their father's charter and commercial fishing boats in Elbow Cay, Marsh Harbour and Guana Cay.

"My dad would leave for three or four weeks at a time to catch what we call crawfish, or spiny lobsters," said Lowe, a junior tight end on The Citadel's football team. "In the summer and winter, he'd be taking out charters.

"I've been working since I was six or seven years old on the boats. When I was 11, I was a boat mechanic at the local marina, and I've been fishing ever since."

Robert Lowe Bahamas

Captain Robert Lowe, father of Citadel football player Elijah Lowe, lost his charter and commercial fishing boats in Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. Provided

Last week, while Elijah was practicing football with the Bulldogs in Greenville, Hurricane Dorian crashed through the Bahamas and swept up the coast of South Carolina.

His father survived, but his boats and rental cottages are destroyed.

"All the boats are gone," Elijah said this week. "So his income is stopped."

In truth, the Lowe family — eighth-generation descendants of the "Loyalists" who repopulated the Bahamas in the late 1700s after the American Revolution — is fortunate, compared with some others.

Elijah's mom, Karen Huff-Lowe, was also safe in Greenville last week during the hurricane; she comes to the U.S. during football season to watch Elijah play. And the fact that Robert Lowe is alive and accounted for is a blessing; the latest death toll from the Bahamas stands at more than 50 and is expected to rise. Some 1,300 are missing, and 15,000 are without food and shelter.

"I asked my dad if he was scared," said Elijah. "And he said, 'Scared doesn't describe it. You never want to live through that in your life.'"

Hurricane Dorian

Destruction from Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas. Provided/Karen Huff-Lowe 

The man who drove Elijah's ferry boat to school, from Hopetown to Marsh Harbour, is dead, swept away by floodwaters while trying to save his stepson. Some of Elijah's cousins still are missing. One of his favorite eating spots, the Sea Spray, is gone.

"It's devastating," Elijah said. "It broke my heart, because I really love my country. I have dual citizenship in the U.S., but I consider the Bahamas my home and it breaks my heart to see it like that."

Elijah speaks with a Bahamian lilt. His mom, originally from Greenville, was on a school trip to the Bahamas when she met Robert Lowe. She brought each of her sons to the U.S. to be born, so that they would have dual citizenship.

Fortunately for both mother and son, Karen and Elijah were able to be together last week during the hurricane because the Bulldogs had evacuated Charleston for Lookup Lodge near Greenville.

"It was good for me, but I think it was really good for her," Elijah said. "She was crying a lot, and I felt responsible to be there for her. Family is everything down there, and in the Bahamas, we don't leave people behind."

Bahamas map

During the height of the storm, the Lowes prayed and sought information wherever they could find it.

"The department down there, Hopetown Fire and Rescue, established some communication with Florida," Elijah said. "They pushed out some information. And they had a list, a Google sheet of all the names, and they put a check mark by them if they found them. I'm still missing a few cousins in Green Turtle, and I lost two friends to the storm."

On Facebook, Karen posted the news that Robert was safe.

“PRAISE GOD!” she wrote in a post to the Facebook page of the Hope Town Bulletin Group. “I just got confirmation my family, Robert, Mercedes, Bessie and Maity are all O.K. They think everyone else on the island is too but communication limited.”

Hurricane survivors struggle to start new life in Bahamas

Homes lay in ruins after Hurricane Dorian hit The Mudd neighborhood in the Marsh Harbor area of Abaco, Bahamas. Dorian, the most powerful hurricane in the northwestern Bahamas' recorded history, killed at least 50 people in the Bahamas. Fernando Llano/AP

Elijah, who remembers watching the New England Patriots on a neighbor's TV when he was young, moved to the U.S. when he was 14, seeking educational opportunity and a chance to play football.

He moved in with an aunt and went to Easley High School, where he played on the offensive line. He grew from a 6-foot, 150-pound freshman to his current 6-4 and 228 pounds, and earned a chance to play at Limestone College.

But Elijah wanted to major in electrical engineering, so he left Limestone and studied for two years at Trident Tech before transferring to The Citadel, where this will be his final season of college eligibility.

"He really came to us out of nowhere," said Citadel coach Brent Thompson. "He showed up one day wanting to walk on. He was a big guy, so we started him on the defensive line. I told him we'd need a tight end this year, so we brought him over."

Elijah played about 30 snaps in the season opener against Towson and about 15-20 plays last week at Elon.

The plan now is for Elijah's mom to return to the Bahamas to help Robert Lowe secure what's left, then return to the U.S. to regroup and plan for the future. Elijah said he'll probably spend Christmas break in the Bahamas, helping his family rebuild. Some of Robert Lowe's fans and clients have started a gofundme page to help the captain.

"We have a culture down there like no other," Elijah said. "It's strong and beautiful, with all different types of people. And we love each other like family."

Reach Jeff Hartsell at 843-937-5596. Follow on Twitter @Jeff_fromthePC

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