It was a reunion five months in the making, a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel after a treacherous tornado swept through Glenn Heights, Texas, back in December.
Barbara Haynes has finally found the owner of this homemade pink, satin wedding gown she discovered strewn in the front yard of a neighbor’s home after the storms. After her search efforts went viral with leads from all over the country leading to nowhere, Jocelyn Womack, a woman who lives in the cul-de-sac just one block south of Haynes, reached out.
“My daughter, who is 10, let me know she had seen a story about the dress on the news when she was getting ready for school in the morning,” Womack told ABC News of the surprising find.
She couldn’t believe someone virtually in her own backyard had gone to such lengths to return her beloved dress, which, completely unbeknownst to her, had gained national attention.
“[I was in] disbelief, then relief, then amazement that someone as kind as Ms. Haynes had worked so hard to get it back to its owner,” said Womack. “It was so gratifying to see it. She had taken it out of its preservation box in an attempt to find me. When I met her, it was the first time I had seen it since my wedding almost 25 years ago.”
When Haynes found the gown, it was stored in a preservation box inside a larger, tattered, brown box that had a damp, smeared return address for Denton, Texas, still written on it. Womack had lived in Denton for a brief period of time before later settling down in Glenn Heights.
“It was a real blow to me when I realized I had lost it,” said Womack, who lost the majority of her home and all her belongings in the tornado. “It had come with me through three moves, and meant a tremendous amount to me.”
The sentimental pink gown was important to Womack not only because it was her wedding dress, but because she had painstakingly handsewn the entire garment herself.
“I was married in Elko, Nevada, in 1992,” said Womack. “Though the marriage didn't last, the dress was important to me not just for what it had represented in my wedding, but what it had meant to me to make it myself. It was my first really important sewing project, and I was very pleased with the result, especially considering that I spent only about $100 dollars on the materials to make it. I didn't have a lot of money then, and I made it in the second bedroom of our apartment with my sewing machine set up on a box. I spent many hours on the floor with that dress sewing it.”
Haynes is thrilled to have finally returned the gown she’s cherished for the last five months to its rightful owner, fulfilling her wish for something good to have come from the awful tornado.
“She just embraced this gown when she picked it up,” Haynes said of their reunion on May 14. “It’s such a great ending to an almost five-month story that I can now pass this on to her. I’ve fulfilled my dream. I found the owner. It’s amazing. I am so happy. I am so happy I was able to do this. I just want to thank everyone for helping me find this most gracious lady. She’s amazing.”
And for Womack, the feeling is completely mutual.
“I spent nearly an hour with Ms. Haynes last weekend,” she said. “She is a really special person with a lovely family of her own. Despite the fact that her house and life were also torn apart by that tornado, she took an incredible amount of time to try to find me and get my dress back to me.
“I hope I was able to convey to her during our meeting how grateful I am and how lucky I feel to have had someone I didn't know fight so hard to get a very special item back to me,” she added. “She has taught me a lesson about the kind of person I hope that I can be.”