BURNSVILLE, Minn. – A Burnsville man has received a national award recognizing "courageous" crime victims six years after he was brutally attacked and nearly killed in his home.
This week, Paul Traub traveled to Washington, D.C. where he was awarded the "Special Courage Award," given by the Justice Department's Office for Victims of Crime.
"It's a great honor, and it's well deserved," said Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom, who nominated Traub for the award.
"Paul Traub is an amazing individual. He is lucky to be alive," Backstrom added.
And one could argue that's an understatement.
On May 11, 2008, Traub awoke after accidentally leaving his garage and house door open. The then-52-year-old man quickly realized someone was in his home. In an interview with KARE 11 this week, Traub described how he soon confronted the first of two teenagers who had broken into his home.
Traub addressed the young man, saying, "Whatever you have, I don't care if you take it with you, but you can't stay in my house. You have to leave now."
Traub began escorting the teenager to the staircase, when the intruder called out to his "mom," apparently alerting his accomplice. Traub returned to his bedroom – all the while trying to talk the intruder into leaving his home, while also attempting to call 911 – when he was struck in the head by the second intruder hiding in his bedroom.
"It knocked me from one side of the bed to the other side of the bed and onto the floor," Traub said.
The blow was actually the first of 20 stab wounds that Traub suffered that night – two to his head, one to his face and 17 more on his back. A tip of the knife blade used in the attack remains embedded in his skull after doctors determined it posed too great a risk to remove.
The horrific attack didn't conclude with the brutal assault, but the assailants continued to try and kill Traub – while also covering up their crime – by setting eight fires throughout his house.
"The next thing I remember is hearing someone in my bedroom and looking up and seeing flames on my bed about a foot high," Traub recalled.
Amazingly – though the teenagers left him for dead – Traub was able to walk through a wall of fire, out of his home and to his neighbors' home. His primary concern, authorities say, was to make sure others in the four-plex home were able to get to safety before the fire spread.
"His first thought, when he got up, soaked in blood – with his bedroom on fire – I've got to get out to protect my neighbors," Backstrom said, adding: "He wasn't concerned about his own safety. He was worried about his neighbors. He's just an amazing human being."
That's one reason Backstrom believes Traub received the award. But the Burnsville man has also been honored for speaking and advocating on behalf of victims' rights and services. Traub has shared his message of hope and healing with several local law enforcement groups and appeared on a nationally televised show, "I Survived."
Meantime, Traub returned to his Burnsville home where he continues to live, maintaining that he wouldn't allow the crime to also take away his "home." And Traub has been on a journey of healing and forgiveness that started during the attack itself and in the hours of recovery that followed. Traub's belief? That he simply could not have survived on his own.
"I believe that I have a fairly strong faith, and I think that got me through that night. I could feel that someone was in the room with me, " he said.
"I honestly didn't believe I was going to walk out of here alive, but I knew that whatever happened, I was going to be o.k.," he said.
Mere hours after his attack, Traub told KARE 11 he offered up two prayers.
"One, that I was thankful to still be breathing," he said.
And the next? "I prayed that something would happen in those two kids lives that would change their outlook on life, and move them away from whatever they were into and what they were currently doing."
Both teenagers were caught and convicted. And while Traub hopes they'll be rehabilitated during their time in prison, he's also grateful for the "other" people involved in his ordeal – all those who helped him survive that night and the weeks, months and years that followed.
"In just a few short hours, I experienced the very worst that the world had to offer and the very best that the world had to offer with all the nurses, doctors and police and all of the people that were taking care of me," Traub said, adding, "That's the part that's emotional to me, all the help that people gave me."