Fire victim has heart broken again

Jul. 09, 2013 @ 05:36 PM

Wilmer Johnson had his heart broken as a teen, and he turned to music to mend it.
Forty years later, after amassing hundreds of albums, his entire collection went up in smoke when fire gutted his home at Royal Oaks Apartments.
His heart is broken again.
“I had my heart broken when I was 15, and so I started listening to music because it expressed how I was feeling,” Johnson, now 56, said Tuesday. “Music soothed the savage beast.”
Johnson said he had about 300 vinyl albums, 1,000 CDs and hundreds of movies and books.
It’s cinders now, destroyed when the Monday afternoon fire that began in his next-door neighbor’s apartment swept through the 20-unit building and left it gutted.
Johnson had no insurance.
Durham fire officials were at the scene Tuesday, trying to pinpoint the cause. All 20 units in Building 9 on Weymouth Street off Durham-Chapel Hill Boulevard were destroyed, but no one was hurt.
Johnson is grateful for that.
“All the material stuff – that can be replaced,” he said as a charred odor filled the air. “I may not be able to re-collect everything I had, but as long as everybody’s safe, that’s what matters.”
Meanwhile, Johnson and his roommate, Paula Maybrey, are staying in a motel provided by the Red Cross. They’re considering an offer by Royal Oaks management to move into a second-story apartment at the complex.
But Johnson has a lung disorder and Maybrey has a bad hip, so navigating stairs creates an obstacle.
Red Cross officials are helping 25 of the 40 displaced residents with temporary housing, and Jersey Mike’s and Fire House Subs are providing food.
Officials said Monday’s blaze was at least the fourth major fire at the complex in the past 10 years.