BEAUMONT, Texas — It was supposed to be a typical eight-hour work shift for Satchel Smith when the 21-year-old college student reported to work Wednesday at Homewood Suites in Beaumont, Texas.
Tropical Storm Imelda changed things dramatically. Smith, a junior at nearby Lamar University, was stranded at the hotel for 32 straight hours as the sole employee on-site as flooding from the storm prevented access to the building, KPMT reported. He held down the fort for the more than 90 guests staying at the hotel, who hailed him as a hero.
“I got to work about 3 p.m. (Sept. 18) and it had been raining the whole day, but it wasn’t flooding yet," Smith told the television station. "Then the morning came around, and I was the only one there and everyone was expecting breakfast."
Smith said his night shift co-worker, who was supposed to relieve him, texted at 7 p.m. Wednesday and said she could not make it to work.
Normally, Smith works one shift a week because he is a full-time student and competes for the Lamara track and field team. He worked the equivalent of four shifts beginning Wednesday.
Angela Chandler, a hotel guest last week, praised Smith's poise under pressure in a Facebook post.
"Meet Satchel. He is the only employee here at Homewood Suites in Beaumont," Chandler wrote Thursday. "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.
"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 wrote. "He has handled this situation with grace, kindness, and a beautiful smile on his face."
Chandler's post has generated more than 53,000 views, 13,000 shares and more than 6,300 comments as of Monday morning.
Smith remained composed while the stormy weather wreaked havoc with the hotel's computer systems and set off several fire alarms, KPMT reported. He quickly learned to multi-task, becoming a cook, maintenance man and troubleshooter.
"It was pretty intense," Smith told CNN.
He served cereal for breakfast and then a guest volunteered to help him make breakfast in the hotel's kitchen, the television station reported.
The next night, guests helped Smith make chicken pasta for dinner, KPMT reported.
"I'd never worked in a kitchen," Smith told CNN. "I'm not really a good cook."
Smith finally got some relief when another employee was able to enter the building at 9:30 p.m. Friday, KPMT reported. He took a short nap at the hotel and then returned to work, helping his co-workers tend to the hotel guests.
Company officials joined guests with praise.
"And our Friday inspiration comes from the strength and character of an amazing young man named Satchel," Homewood Suites officials wrote on their official Twitter account. "A Homewood Suites by Hilton Team Member in Beaumont, and role model to all of us! Way to go, Satchel!"
Smith said it was just another day at the office.
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