by: Richard Elliot Updated:
ROSWELL, Ga. - A Roswell grocery store took in about 80 stranded motorists at the height of the ice storm, and now, many of those drivers are calling the store manager a hero and crediting him with saving lives.
The sudden winter storm turned sections of Holcomb Bridge Road, a major artery between Norcross and Woodstock, into a sheet of ice, particularly the steep hill in front of the Kroger.
Joe LeBlanc left his job in Norcross around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday to try to make it home to Woodstock, but by 7:30, had made it only 5 or 6 miles to the Kroger. LeBlanc said as he tried to negotiate the steep hill in his two-wheel drive pickup truck, he nearly wiped out, so he pulled into the Kroger parking lot.
"My knees were wobbling," said LeBlanc. "I went into the Kroger, and sure enough, Bren was there. He knew what I wanted. He knew I was stuck, and he said, 'make yourself at home."
Sexton said the drivers trickled in at first, but as the night went on, more and more showed up at the door asking for refuge. He gladly gave it and turned his upstairs office space into a makeshift emergency shelter.
"They trickled in," said Sexton. "They kind of joined the crowds upstairs. We'd go up every couple of hours, and it had grown, and then another couple of hours, and it had grown."
Sexton raided his hot bar and served hot meals to the stranded drivers. He rented a movie and showed it on their conference room DVD player. Then at about 5:30 a.m., he counted 80 people inside his store, and made them a hot breakfast of eggs, sausage and biscuits. All of it, he said, free of charge.
"We were using stuffed animals off the aisles as pillows," Sexton said. "They were sleeping on tables upstairs. We had some sleeping by the pharmacy. Some on the water aisle. We had a good night. It was a family."
LeBlanc believes Sexton and the other Kroger employees saved his life, because he believes if he had continued driving, he would have wrecked.
"I really think driving home yesterday, I would've been in one of those pileups," said LeBlanc.