Joe Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)
Sandra Campbell knew the sound. She had heard it once before 47 years ago, when she was a little girl being rescued from the row home her family owned for over 50 years on Lafayette Street in Norristown, Montgomery County.
Sandra, the mother of former Imhotep Charter star Donta Scott, now at Maryland, knew that during heavy rains, the Schuylkill River would grow so swollen that the swoosh, swoosh, swoosh of muddy water would come attacking her and her family. It came crashing through the heater vents, under the doors, anywhere and everywhere there was a crease.
Donta Scott, right, says his mother Sandra Campbell, left, "is the strongest person I know." (Photo courtesy of Maryland athletics)
On Wednesday, September 1, the remnants of Hurricane Ida hit the area, displacing families and destroying property surrounding Philadelphia—including Sandra and Dwayne Campbell’s home. The swoosh, swoosh, swoosh of floods past began creeping back into Sandra’s mind. The family was forced to wade through waist-high water with their two grandsons, 9 and 12, for rescue workers to save them.
As Sandra was being boated away, she turned back and took a last glimpse of the family home that was a part of her, like a limb, knowing it was destroyed.
What has emerged over the last five weeks, however, from the irreversible tragedy has been nothing short of miraculous. The Maryland basketball community, spearheaded by Terps’ head coach Mark Turgeon, has raised over $50,000 for the family on a GoFundMe page with more money coming in.
The GoFundMe page that Maryland set up for Scott quickly started gaining traction with notable sports personalities like Maryland's own Scott Van Pelt amplifying the page, in addition to some of college basketball's most notable media members including Jeff Goodman, Jon Rothstein, Andy Katz, Seth Davis, and Matt Norlander. Maryland Athletic Director Damon Evans also issued a statement showing his support for Donta and the entire Scott family.
In a matter of hours, the family lost almost everything they owned. Water levels reached four feet high, destroying the family’s TVs, laptops, furniture, kitchenware, clothing, bedding and a Mercedes-Benz, not to mention priceless personal items.
Since the first week of September, Scott’s family has been forced to live out of a hotel with constantly rising costs.
“I have a strong family and my biggest concern was that my family was okay,” said Scott, a 2019 Imhotep grad who is a 6-foot-7, 230-pound junior forward that started 27 games for the Terps last year, averaging 11.0 points and a team-high 5.9 rebounds. “My mother is the strongest person I know. I wanted to make sure everyone was okay.
“What bothered me was how it hit my mom. Right now, my focus is the present and the future. Coach Turgeon asked me about what happened and he asked me for some ideas on what we can do to help my family out. Coach Turgeon found out what happened to my family through my AAU coach, Howard Hudson. We decided to start a GoFundMe page.”
Donta Scott's family home was destroyed by flooding in early September. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Campbell)
Scott said the outpouring from the Maryland and Philadelphia-area basketball communities has been tremendous. He’s been staying in Maryland throughout the entire year, making sporadic trips back to Philadelphia to visit family and friends.
“It’s a great thing Maryland is doing, and it just shows when you talk about Maryland basketball, you’re talking about family and it’s one of the reasons why I chose Maryland,” Scott said. “A lot of people really helped out. They stress family here and it definitely showed.
“But my biggest concern is that my family is safe. The house is an object, it’s a possession. Lives are hard to get back. My mom, my family are alive. You can replace a house. You can’t replace your family. I don’t know what I would do if something ever happened to them. We’ll look back on this and try to remember that things aren’t always fair, and you learn that living in the city.
“Everyone got out safe and no one was injured in the process.”
Sandra was afraid to tell her son.
“I waited two days to call Donta (about the flood). He has enough stress on him down there at Maryland,” Sandra said. “I called him on Friday to let him know we were safe and everything was okay. I didn’t want to upset him. He went right into action about what he can do. In the mist of everything, it hits you hard. When I first went back on Friday (Sept. 3) to see the house, I was appalled. I was still in disbelief.
“I grew up in that house. My children grew up in this home. That home was a part of me. The main thing is getting my grandchildren in school and reality sets in. I’m on the phone I would say five, six hours a day talking to insurance companies. That’s pretty much my day.”
The remnants of Hurricane Ida led to the Schuylkill River overflowing and destroying Donta Scott's family home, which had been in his mother's family for over 50 years. Since that flooding in early September, Sandra and Dwayne Campbell and their two grandsons have been living out of a hotel. (Photo courtesy of Sandra Campbell)
As Ida was pelting the area, Dwayne Campbell went out to save the cars and get them to a higher ground. He was able to get two cars to safe terrain, but not the Mercedes-Benz. As Dwayne was pushing his way through the water in the early portion of Thursday morning, Sept. 2, he quickly noticed all of the homes on their small block had their lights out. No one on the block was aware of the flooding—until Dwayne banged on doors on the eight-home block and shouted to wake them up.
If there was an unsung hero in this tragedy, it was Dwayne. He and his family were braving through a live version of The Titanic. In a very tense moment, Dwayne made a very selfless act.
Water was rushing at Dwayne and his family at a much faster rate than normal.
“I was never in a flood of this magnitude,” Dwayne said. “When I tried to move the Mercedes, water was rushing into the car and I couldn’t start it. I’m not going to lie, panic set in. That’s when I looked around and noticed no one’s lights on the block were on. This is a very close block. We’re very close to the neighbors.
“I was banging on doors and banging on windows like Paul Revere. I was screaming at the top of my lungs to get everybody up. These people on this block are family, and I was trying to get everyone on the same page to get out. It was a disaster. It was a nightmare in disguise. Mother Nature was doing her thing and no one was stopping her.
“But something really good came from it. How Maryland’s basketball family and the school came to our aid is something unforgettable to me. If I get a chance, I want to address the whole college. I have to address the University of Maryland for their love and support and I want to thank those students at Maryland and I don’t care how long it takes to do it.
“God is great. He’s not good—He’s great.”
Donta Scott said the outpouring of support from the Maryland and Philadelphia basketball communities has been tremendous. (Photo courtesy of Maryland athletics)
As night began to turn to day on Thursday, September 2, school cancellations came. Virtual classes were even canceled. An emergence declaration was issued by the Norristown City council on September 8. The National Weather Service issued 14 tornado warnings for the Philly region. Roofs were blown off of homes. Flooding ruined many homes and almost many lives with it.
“Not my family,” Donta said. “They’re too strong. You find out a lot when you go through things like this. But for me, it’s something I already knew.”
Not even Hurricane Ida would break his family’s willpower.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.