Glendale, IN – The fiancé of a fallen Indiana firefighter honored the couple’s anticipated wedding day by participating in a bridal photo shoot with their friends and family, nearly 10 months after her husband-to-be was killed at a collision scene.
Montgomery Volunteer Fire Department Firefighter Kendall Murphy, 27, died on Nov. 10, 2017, shortly after he arrived at the scene of a vehicle crash in Daviess County, approximately one mile away from his home, according to the National Firefighters Foundation website.
“He was exiting his personal vehicle when another responding firefighter drove up on the scene and hit Kendall, killing him instantly,” the website read.
The other firefighter, 26-year-old Colby Blake, had a blood-alcohol reading of 0.21 percent at the time of the crash, and was arrested on multiple charges, WTHR reported.
Firefighter Murphy and his fiancé, Jessica Padgett, planned to be married on Sep. 29, and had long planned for Loving Life photographer Mandi Knepp to capture images of their special day, Global News reported.
Several months after Firefighter Murphy’s tragic death, Padgett contacted Knepp and told her she still wanted to keep their appointment for her wedding day.
“I already had my dress bought and other things, and I still wanted to contribute to my wedding day,” she told Global News.
“She made broken look beautiful and strong look invincible,” Knepp said in a Facebook post, as she described the two hours she spent photographing what should have been the couple’s wedding day. “She walked with the Universe on her shoulders and made it look like a pair of wings.”
The session began in Glendale, where Firefighter Murphy and Padgett had posed for their engagement photos, Global News reported.
Along the way, she texted her wedding party to confirm the time and location for them to meet up with her and Knepp.
But when she arrived at the spot where friends and family where scheduled to meet, Padgett was struck by what they had done.
“My bridal party and the groomsmen were all standing in their places like they would if we were going to get married,” she recalled. “I was very emotional. I had to take a break for a second because I was just crying so much from that.”
Firefighter Murphy’s parents presented her with a bouquet of sunflowers that had been placed in a pair of cowboy boots that her fiancée had worn “every day,” Global News reported.
“Whatever path you take, your guardian angel will always be there for you. Love Kendall,” a note attached to his weathered boots read.
Padgett was also given a stack of multicolored envelopes filled with letters from people in her community, WXIN reported.
So many letters poured in, Padgett will have enough to read a message of support once each day for the next six months.
Later, the group proceeded to the cemetery where Firefighter Murphy is buried, and released paper lanterns into the night sky, photos showed.
“It turned out to be a decent day with all the surprises and the support and the love that my family and friends shared with me,” Padgett told Global News. “In the end, I’m glad I did it though, because now I can look back at those memories that Mandi took, and the ways I got to honor Kendall and be with Kendall and see all the support I had that day.”
Others who have seen the images of her day have also reached out to express the impact the photos had on them.
“I’m kind of blessed,” Padgett explained. “Different people have been telling me how they have been struggling, and seeing my pictures kind of brought strength and comfort
The images have helped “others that I don’t know who are going through a hard time and a grieving process as well,” she said.
Instead of titling Padgett’s album on her Facebook page, Knepp memorialized it with a touching message.
“It’s hard when you miss someone. But, you know, if you miss them you were BLESSED,” she wrote. “It means you had someone special in your life, someone worth missing.”