A veteran from World War II has tragically lost his home along with everything inside it due to a fire-related accident has his local area backing him up and supporting him. Along with others, he’s never met – as he attempts to rebuild his life.
Paul Roberts, 94, escaped to somewhere safe and secure, yet wound up without a place to live when his home in Ship Bottom, New Jersey, burnt down just last month.
“It took everything I have,” he told TODAY’s Craig Melvin in an interview that aired Monday. “And that’s hard.”
There are lots who can relate to Paul over that loss. Over one-quarter of reported fires in the span of 2015-2019 occurred in homes, and worse, three-quarters of civilian fire deaths and nearly three-quarters of all the reported injuries were caused by home fires. Additionally, during this span, the U.S. fire dept. Responded to around an average of over 340,000 house fires per year, causing a yearly average of around 2,620 civilian deaths, over 11,000 fire-related civilian injuries, and $7.3 billion in property damage.
In any case, Roberts, who went to Nagasaki with the Marines after the United States dropped the nuclear bomb there, has received a great deal of help and support to piece his life back together. One of his neighbors, who’s a retired fireman Rich Obermayer, who lives across the road, shares a bond with Roberts. Rich’s daughter, Erin, likewise became close with the veteran when they got to hang out during the pandemic.
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Erin says she’s astonished by Roberts’ bubbly viewpoint following the fire.
“I love Paul. I tell all my friends about him. I’m, like, ‘Hey, my friend, my 94-year-old friend,” she said. “Once I came and saw Paul, first thing I said to him, I was like, ‘Paul, I’m so sorry.” He said, “Not as sorry as I am.’ Who do you know that their house burns down and they laugh about it?”
The great news is both Rich and Erin chose to help Roberts by making a GoFundMe page, which has acquired over $137,000, a large portion of which they claim was given by individuals they don’t know.
“It’s so amazing reading the comments,” Rich says, like one that read, “Thank you for serving the country.” He mentions that Marines have given donations from all over the country.
Paul would rather live on his own and has since looked into a little apartment located near his house. He’s thinking about reconstructing his home yet doesn’t know he has the funds to do so. Despite his vulnerability, his positive outlook and perspective haven’t faltered.
“It’s been three weeks. You either live with it or you don’t,” he said while chuckling. “What are you going to do? You can’t be moping around forever, you know?”
Roberts additionally counts himself as very fortunate.
“I always thought I had lived a charmed life,” he said. “I must’ve had a guardian angel.”
I’d agree with Roberts. He may have lost everything in that fire, but he was able to hold onto his life which has much more value. I wish the best for Roberts and salute him. I’m glad he’s getting assistance to help get back on his feet even if it’s not enough to rebuild his house right away, he has the support of many individuals. If you’d like to assist this Vet and thank him for his service his GoFundMe can be found here. At the time of writing, he’s currently raised $178,105 with a goal of $250,000.