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Beaumont hotel employee hailed as a hero after running hotel solo during Imelda's flooding

Satchel Smith stayed all night because his coworkers could not get to work. The hotel where he works is located right off I-10 in Beaumont, which flooded in Imelda.

BEAUMONT, Texas — A Beaumont hotel was left with only one employee during the worst of Imelda's flooding. 

"Meet Satchel. He is the only employee here at Homewood Suites in Beaumont," Angela Chandler, a guest at the hotel said in a Sept. 19 Facebook post that's been shared over 12,000 times as of Saturday night, Sept. 21. "The access road is underwater and I-10 is shut down due to flooding. We can’t get in or go out. The hotel a mile from us is underwater."

Satchel Smith stayed all night because his coworkers could not get to work. The hotel where he works is located right off I-10 in Beaumont, which was near some of the worst of Imelda's rising waters.

“I got to work about 3 p.m. Wednesday (Sept. 18) and it had been raining the whole day, but it wasn’t flooding yet," he said. 

His night shift coworker who was supposed to relieve him texted him at 7 p.m. to tell him she could not make it to work, he said. He has been working at Homewood Suites just over a year. Usually, he only works one day a week since he's also taking full time college classes as a junior at Lamar University. 

"Then the morning came around, and I was the only one there and everyone was expecting breakfast," Satchel said. 

He tried to stay calm while the weather interfered with the hotel's computer systems, setting off fire alarms in the building several times. He said he served cereal and then one of the guests volunteered to help him make breakfast in the hotel's kitchen. 

Satchel ended up working 32 hours straight until his coworker was able to relieve him, he said. Since the hotel also serves dinner between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., the guests teamed up to help him make chicken pasta for everyone. 

"We also invited some people from other hotels to come eat because they didn’t have any food," he said. 

During the height of the storm, he said he and the guests lined up to bring water to truckers stranded along I-10. 

His shift finally ended at 9:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20. He took a short nap at the hotel and went right back to work to help out his coworkers and the guests.  

"He has manned the phones, answered each of our questions, ensured that we have had a hot cup of coffee or tea, and helped serve us a hot breakfast," Chandler said. "He has handled this situation with grace, kindness, and a beautiful smile on his face."

The Facebook post credited his resilience and hospitality in the face of the storm to divine providence. 

"Sometimes we ask ourselves why God allows things to happen, but we are not designed to understand his ways. I do think that sometimes He allows things to happen so we can be His light and share the love of Christ with others," Chandler said in the post. 

She described the events of the storm she witnessed during the storm. 

"I have seen a big teddy bear of a man washing dishes and serving eggs, a little grandmother wiping down tables, and a man drenched from head to toe because he crossed I-10 to deliver bottles of water to truck drivers who have been stranded," Chandler said. 

Satchel said he doesn't see himself as heroic, he just did the right thing in a disastrous situation. 

"I was always gonna be there for them, I would never plan on leaving," he said. "I don’t consider myself a hero, that’s just what I would do, I think anybody would do the same thing."

The hotel guests watched a helicopter land at a nearby hotel where the parking lot was underwater and guests were being evacuated by air. 

"I’m looking at my table and see a leftover bagel from breakfast, my hot cup of tea, my cozy socks, and dry tennis shoes," she said in the post. "I am thankful for each of these things and for the peace in knowing that my family is safe and sound. Please pray for us and that we can each make it home safely to each of our families. "

Satchel is a shining example of what to do in a crisis, Chandler said in the post. 

"If you know Satchel, tell him he is our hero!" she said. "I will stay here next time just knowing that despite whatever happens, I will have someone putting our needs above his own needs."

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