ALBANY, Ga. -- Sarah Hunter started to drive off.
The long-time Albany Herald carrier had tried to rouse one of her customers in the early morning hours to no avail. So she got back in her vehicle and continued along her route in the Sasser community.
But Hunter's not the kind to let things go.
So she turned her vehicle around, went back to Alva Culbreth's home and started pounding on the door even harder. When there was still no answer and the alarming smell of gas persisted, Hunter called 911.
And she waited.
"I was really scared," Hunter, 41, who was recently named district circulation manager, said. "I decided I'd stay at the house until emergency personnel arrived, but just before the fire truck got there, Ms. Culbreth came to the door.
"I told her what was wrong, and she said, 'Don't leave me.' I stayed with her until I knew she was safe."
Hunter's heroic act occurred in May. No one knew of it until reader Jill McDonald, who attends church with the 95-year-old Culbreth, sent an e-mail to Herald Publisher Mike Gebhart last week.
"I wanted to write and tell you about one of your carriers. She is a hero in my book," McDonald's e-mail began. She then described in detail the events that led to the frantic 911 call that perhaps saved Culbreth's life.
"Hours after the fire department came, the gas fumes were still unbearable," McDonald continued. "If it was not for this paper lady, our precious friend would have died. ... We the members of our church and community feel grateful for (Hunter) as a night watchman. We can't thank her enough."
Culbreth, too, praised Hunter for her selfless act.
"I like that young lady a real lot," the nonagenarian said Thursday. "She's such a sweet person, and she sure helped me out. If she hadn't come along, the whole thing might have blown up.
"I understand she's the kind of person who takes care of people, and there ain't no one who can say a bad thing about her. I know I can't."
Hunter worked as a pharmacy technician at Tift Regional Hospital in Tifton before moving with her family from Worth County to Terrell County. Needing new employment, she applied and got a job as a carrier at The Herald. She worked at that position for 3 1/2 years before being named district manager last month.
Herald Circulation Director Michael Hill said he was surprised to find out that Hunter's heroic act happened five months ago and he only recently heard of it, but he was not surprised by Hunter's actions.
"Sarah's such a humble person, she didn't say anything about the incident on her route," Hill said. "That's just the kind of person she is. But she's always been one of our best and most reliable carriers.
"When the (district manager) position came open, everyone in the circulation department was unanimous in recommending her for the job."
Hunter said she's always tried to help people when she could, but she was especially concerned about the 95-year-old Culbreth.
"I took the paper to (Culbreth's) doorstep around 3-3:30 in the morning," she said. "That's part of the paper's service for our elderly subscribers. As soon as I opened her storm door, I smelled the gas. I didn't know what to do, and I started to go on with my route. But I had to come back.
"I banged on the door for 10 minutes, and when no one answered I decided to call 911. I'm really glad I did."
So is Culbreth.
"She's just a wonderful, wonderful person," the long-time Herald reader said.
McDonald seconds that emotion.
"This is a special person you have working for you," she wrote to Gebhart. "Please tell her again how much we appreciate her watching after everyone at night. She is a Godsend and a blessing to all who have the pleasure of coming into contact with her."