This heroic hotel employee single-handedly served 90 stranded guests for 32 hours straight
Satchel Smith, 21, is being lauded as a hero for keeping 90 trapped hotel guests safe and fed during a severe flash flood — all by himself.
The college athlete was only scheduled to work at the Homewood Suites in Beaumont, Texas, from 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18.
But none of his co-workers came to replace him when his shift was up: All the roads were underwater, making it impossible for them to get to the hotel — or for Smith and the hotel guests to safely leave.
So for 32 hours straight, the employee who usually mans the front desk single-handedly managed the entire hotel in order to provide his customers with "all the comforts of home," living up to the Homewood Suites slogan.
Smith "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," said Angela Chandler, a guest who praised Smith in a Facebook post that has since gone viral. "He has handled this situation with grace, kindness and a beautiful smile on his face."
Tropical Storm Imelda drenched Texas and Louisiana this week, flooding the low swamplands facing the Gulf of Mexico with more than three feet of water in some areas.
One of the regions Imelda hit the hardest was Beaumont, Texas — a town that was devastated by Hurricane Harvey just two scant years prior. This time around, flash flood levels from Imelda measured more than 43 inches high in some areas.
Since water levels rose so quickly, the Homewood Suites in Beaumont didn't have time to arrange for emergency staffing by the time Smith's shift was set to begin Wednesday.
Although Smith handled the overwhelming situation with aplomb, the Lamar University track and field sophomore told CNN afterward that working four shifts in a row — solo, at that — was "pretty intense." But his attitude and attention to customer service never faltered. Even though he said he'd "never worked in a kitchen" and was "not really a good cook," he worked with a couple of hotel guests who helped him pull together meals for everyone, including a chicken pasta with garlic bread that everyone said was "pretty satisfying."
Smith went far beyond the call of duty to serve others outside of his little domain as well: Because the highways surrounding the hotel were closed off due to high water, Smith and other able-bodied guests waded out through the flood to distribute water and food to drivers who had been stranded in their cars for hours.
And even after one of Smith's co-workers managed to make it to the hotel Friday morning, he continued to work, helping her get up to speed until his family could safely pick him up from the hotel.
Why did Smith need his family members to pick him up? Unfortunately, it's because he is no stranger to flood damage: His car had been totaled by Imelda floodwaters earlier in the week. This is the second car Smith has lost to a bad storm: The first time around was during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Despite his personal misfortune and his marathon efforts this week, the Hero of the Homewood Suites maintains his resilient attitude. "Everything happens for a reason," he said.
“After reading this amazing story, I can only imagine how calm and collected Satchel had to be. His actions in this intense situation are to be admired,” said Rick Colling, global head of Homewood Suites by Hilton. “He is a prime example of how the hospitality spirit can help spread light and warmth. Thank you, Satchel, for making sure everyone was safe and cared for.”