The old adage "What goes up must come down" almost meant the end for a 74-year-old Floridian on the Fourth of July when a stray 9mm bullet that had been shot in the air by a holiday reveler came screaming back to earth in a one-in-a-million direct hit, clipping the sky gazer's hat and piercing his nose, lip and chin.
The bullet didn't stop there. It exited his chin and was heading for his chest when it finally was deflected by a silver necklace he just started wearing. Richard Smeraldo, who had been sitting on a camp chair with his head tilted skywards as he watched the fireworks display over the ironically named Safety Harbor, says the necklace saved his life.
The silver medallion necklace, which was a gift from his daughter, was recently inscribed with a favorite Bible verse of his mother's: "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.”
Smeraldo said the impact was like getting hit in the face with a big rock or a baseball bat. "It smacked me in the nose, like, really with a lot of force," he explained. "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."
The bullet could have done more damage, but was finally deflected by his dog-tag medallion. The bullet split the stainless steel chain in two. The shocked and bleeding Smeraldo wasn't sure what hit him until a friend found the 9mm bullet on the blanket beside them.
His minor injuries required only a few stitches to repair. "If I'd been leaning a little more forward," Smeraldo told ABC News, "I could be gone right now." Smeraldo calls his good fortune a miracle.
"So, thank you mom," he said, looking up at the sky. "I had four people tell me, 'You better go get a lotto ticket, you know.'"