When Hurricane Harvey struck Texas in August, firefighter Kyle Parry wasn’t able to return to his own home for at least 72 hours because he was too busy helping others in the aftermath.
Prior to evacuating his Lumberton, Texas home, all Parry was able to do was grab his dogs and hang the wedding dress that his fiancée, Stephanie Hoekstra, had brought home from Ontario just one week prior to the devastating natural disaster.
So when Parry, 35, returned to the house several days later and broadcast what he found via Facebook Live, he wasn’t the only one stunned to see the dress, perfectly intact. The piece was still hanging safe and dry above the flood waters, which reached to just below his chest.
“He stuffed the dress on the top shelf [of a bedroom closet] and went back to rescuing people,” Hoekstra, 33, tells The Knot. “The next morning he said that the water was up to the roof and he thought the dress was gone. So when he went through the house, I was thrilled to see it inches from the water. I know that stuff is just stuff, and everything can eventually be replaced. But I saw it as a sign of hope for our day.”
“It was crazy,” Parry tells The Knot. “I was doing a Facebook Live post because everyone has been asking how things are and are you okay and I just wanted everybody to know we’re okay. I’m alive. I’m busy, but I’m alive.”
In the video, Parry also points out boxes of wedding favors and decorations that were completely buried under the water, all of them ruined.
But the pair, who were originally set to marry on September 10, don’t mind rescheduling their big day; both tell The Knot that their main priority now is making sure that their family and friends are rebuilding their lives.
“Right now our focus is on the community—thousands of people without homes,” Parry tells The Knot. “We want to help them get their life back together. As firemen and [emergency workers]—I’ve got a very large family when it comes to firefighters/EMS— and they’ve been moving me forward. And I’m not the only one who’s lost my house. This is a small-knit town. We’re not a major metropolitan city. Everyone’s parents, grandparents grew up together—and so everybody jumped at the chance to help by the truckloads, by the boatloads, asking, “What can we do?”
Adds Hoekstra, “I’m sure we will aim for the beginning of the new year. Hopefully. But right now, we’re focusing on helping friends.”
“Kyle is such a beautiful person,” she says. “My best friend. I can tell him anything. He cares so much about his friends, the kids, his family … and he’s an incredibly hard worker. … I don’t know how I got so lucky. We love each other so much, and we still have that. So we’ll be OK. I can’t wait to be rocking on a front porch at 80 holding his hand.”
Parry, who is still in the midst of helping with cleaning up the aftermath of Harvey, says his love’s positive attitude has helped him keep perspective in the days following the storm as well.
“She’s amazing,” he says. “She’s happy her dress was found, but at the same time, her attitude is that you’re safe and we’ll rebuild the wedding. … this is Texas. If you thought Texas was tough before, just wait til we rebuild.”