A 94-year-old World War II veteran and retired mailman who tragically lost everything in a house fire last month is getting inspirational help from friends and neighbors.
But Paul Roberts, despite his losses, is leaving those around him in awe over his bright outlook and incredible handling of a truly life-altering situation.
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Roberts luckily wasn’t injured when his home in Ship Bottom, New Jersey, burned down. The kind man is so thankful he wonders whether he had a “guardian angel” to protect him.
But despite being physically OK, he was left with virtually nothing after the fire — a difficult situation for anyone, but especially tough for a man his age.
“It took everything I have,” he told TODAY. “And that’s hard.”
A GoFundMe set up to benefit Roberts explains what happened when the fire broke out March 14 as Roberts was getting ready for bed.
“He had taken a shower and was shaving in the bathroom when he noticed smoke coming through the cracks of the door,” it reads. “He opened the door and saw black. He thought the lights went out.”
But then Roberts took a breath and realized his house was on fire, so he dropped down and started crawling out the back door. He went across the street to neighbor Rich Obermayer’s house and started banging on the window.
Rich and his daughter Erin called 911 — but it was too late to save anything.
“The only thing that was salvaged were some photo albums,” Erin said in the GoFundMe description. “They were his only belongings that were saved.”
Luckily, Rich and Erin, who had already struck up a friendship with Roberts during the pandemic, are stepping up to help Roberts navigate the difficult scenario.
Their GoFundMe has already brought in nearly $157,000 over the past month. Hopefully, the money will be used to help Roberts rebuild his home — a place he hopes to stay for the remainder of his life. The structure will need to be totally rebuilt and much uncertainty still surrounds those prospects.
Erin told TODAY about Roberts’ positive outlook, even after losing everything. And Roberts himself exuded this in his interview with the outlet.
“It’s been three weeks. You either live with it, or you don’t,” Roberts said through laughs. “What are you going to do? You can’t be moping around forever, you know?”
He added, “I always thought I had lived a charmed life. I must’ve had a guardian angel.”
And if there’s any doubt about Roberts’ positivity, Erin proclaimed “he has a smile on his face” regardless of these unfortunate circumstances.
This positive perspective is notable, mainly because Roberts has seen devastation at other points throughout his life. He recalled being stationed in Nagasaki, Japan, after the atomic bomb fell. He saw “nothing standing.”
Decades later, Roberts’ home is no longer standing — but he’s not letting it get him down.
Continue to pray for Roberts as he navigates this challenging situation.
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