Manon Parisé smiled for the cameras Saturday, perched on the train tracks where reporters had set up a lookout point in Lac-Mégantic, Que.
She was clear-eyed and beaming in her beaded white wedding dress, trimmed with red to match her new husband Marco Nuñez’s red dress shirt.
The sun was shining bright in a cloudless blue sky — the perfect weather for a July wedding.
But Parisé and Nuñez had more than the sunshine to be grateful for.
One week earlier, to the day, they slipped out of their apartment in downtown Lac-Mégantic under a firefighter’s orders, a few possessions hastily packed, the wedding dress draped over one arm.
Parisé, a language professor at Anáhuac University in Queretaro, Mexico, and Nuñez — a music producer — were married in Mexico. She brought her new husband to her hometown for the summer, including a local celebration of their nuptials.
Plans for their Lac-Mégantic wedding reception were all set.
Then came the runaway train and the explosion that followed a derailment on a bend in the tracks just a few hundred metres away from where the newlywed couple was living.
"We heard the first explosion and got on the balcony," Parisé said. "We saw everything."
At first, they didn't think they were in any danger, until there was another explosion, and another, and the order from the firefighters that they, too, had to flee.
"We had three hours, so we had time to take our passports and important papers," Parisé said. "And of course, we took the wedding dress!"
The couple was allowed back home three days later. Surveying the devastation, they at first thought they’d have no choice but to call off the party planned for July 13.
Then they began making calls.
"First we called the hall," Nuñez said. "They said, 'No problem. We can do it.'"
Then the cakemaker. She, too, was enthusiastic.
Rachel Longpré’s hairdressing shop burned to the ground in the fire. But she told Parisé to bring the women in the wedding party to her house, where she'd fix everyone’s hair in her kitchen.
"Rachel was telling me she was excited to do be doing a wedding," Parisé said."So it was important to her as well."
Forty-eight people were invited to the gathering at the municipal hall four kilometres west of the devastated town centre, right next to the beach.
All 48 guests showed up.
Nuñez says he was happy to give people something to celebrate.
"We need to show that the most important thing you have in life is family," says Nuñez.