The man who lost everything - FOX 13 News

The man who lost everything

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

It's a heart wrenching story that will inspire us all.  A Bay area man is turning his life around after suffering through three major life-changing events.

There's no doubt Charles and Jessica Cotab were meant to be together. They were high school sweethearts and good friends. 

Charles joined the Army and traveled the world, but they still kept in touch.

It wasn't long before they decided to tie the knot. 

"It was a great friend relationship until I got back, and then I just fell in love with her kind of thing.  She was the reason I got out and started a family," Charles said.   

They were blessed with two beautiful girls, including his step-daughter, who he helped raise as a baby. 

Life was perfect. 

Then one night Jessica woke up screaming.

"And we found out later that it was an aneurism, and it put her into a coma instantly on the couch," said Charles.

Within days, her vital organs shut down.  Doctors told Charles she wouldn't make it. 

"I couldn't talk. I couldn't breathe. I was sitting in a chair luckily, and I just looked to the floor and everything just came out," he said.

That was just the beginning.  Cotab laid his wife to rest on a Saturday.  Three days later, his house caught fire. 

He lost everything inside. 

"All the thank you cards, the gift cards, the checks, the cash, the flowers that I wanted to keep and get memorialized, all of that was covered in ash and in glass debris," he said.

And about a month after, his step-daughter's biological father took custody of her. In less than a week, Charles' life was turned upside down.

Chuck Waygood was Charles' co-worker.  He heard about the devastating news and wanted to help.  He opened an account with a popular fundraising website called 

It's where tens of thousands of people help finance everything from comic books to medical bills.  Many folks made online donations, and within a couple of months, Waygood handed Charles a check of more than $12,000.

"What really shocked me was when I posted it on Facebook and LinkedIn," Waygood said. "Then the outpour of support locally and how quickly it spread through the IT community in Tampa."

Charles said he started crying and was so thankful. He is using the money to help fix his house and get back on his feet.  While he may have lost everything, there's still plenty to live for.

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