SAFETY HARBOR, Fla. - Richard Smeraldo shakes his head in awe when he thinks about how he's still alive today, thanks to about half of an inch.
"If I'd been leaning a little more forward," Smeraldo explained. "I could be gone right now."
Smeraldo, 74, chooses the same plot of grass at the Safety Harbor Spa and Marina every Fourth of July. He loves how close he feels to the fireworks display, almost like the colorful sky is falling right on him.
This year, around 9:45pm, something actually did.
"Like a rock, a boulder, just smacked me in the nose, like, really with a lot of force," he remembered. "Hits my nose here, comes off the side, goes through my nostril, comes out here, splits my nose right here, hits this lip, goes through my chin."
But the bullet didn't stop there. It headed straight down toward his chest, hitting a silver dog-tag medallion Smeraldo recently started wearing. The bullet split his stainless steel chain in two.
The medallion was a present from his daughter, who recently finished a long bout of cancer treatment.
Smeraldo wasn't sure what hit him until his friend found a 9mm bullet on the blanket beside them. He calls it a miracle, even more amazing, he says, considering he just had the medallion engraved with his mother's favorite Bible verse.
The verse is from Matthew 17:20: "Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
"So, thank you mom," he smiled, looking up at the sky. "I had four people tell me, 'You better go get a lotto ticket, you know.'"
Despite surviving what could've easily left him with a fatal injury, Smeraldo played tennis Thursday morning, sharing his story with everyone on the court.
"I feel well, considering I have two holes in my face from a bullet," he said.
Anyone with information about who might have fired a gun nearby Wednesday night should call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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