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Beauty from the Ashes: LeAnn & Steven Cyr

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After three years, LeAnn and Steven Cyr are finally back in their newly restored home with a life-altering experience behind them and a renewed outlook on life.

They say a lot of good came from it: lasting friendships with some remarkable people, a more resilient family and a stronger marriage. They could have never predicted in those early days following the fire, that they would reflect on what had happened with any positivity.

On the night of May 19, 2021, the Cyrs’ Woodland, Texas home was struck by lightning and caught fire. Three fire crews arrived within minutes and battled the blaze for hours. The Cyrs watched from across the street as the flames grew bigger and bigger, and their beautiful home went up in smoke. But this isn’t where their story ends, nor where it begins.

Your home is your sanctuary. You create that sanctuary with your family, and you can have that anywhere.

LeAnn and Steven’s story starts at the Clark Air Base in the Philippines where both of their fathers were stationed on military assignments. They attended the same middle school and shared many of the same friends during their time in the Philippines, but eventually lost touch after eighth grade when their families returned to the states.

LeAnn attended George Mason University, earning both an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in education. She began her professional life as a career counselor at Georgetown University where she developed a passion for helping students turn their academic successes into fulfilling careers. Following Georgetown, LeAnn worked for several years as a corporate recruiter for a Fortune 500 company.

Steven went on to play running back at Southwest Texas State University and was accepted to medical school on an Air Force scholarship, a first step in fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a doctor. What he originally expected to be a four-year commitment to the Air Force turned into a successful career: 14 years of active duty, including two tours in Iraq and a promotion to Chief of Spine Surgery.

LeAnn and Steven reconnected in 1998; the two hadn’t seen each other in 14 years. “I had no idea what LeAnn looked like other than when she was 12 and had peroxided blond hair,” Steven laughs. They began chatting on the phone—a lot—and eventually decided they needed to see each other in person. Steven flew to Fort Lauderdale where LeAnn was living at the time. “That was that,” he says. “True love at first sight, the second time.” The couple tied the knot on December 18, 1999.

Following the birth of their first child, LeAnn and Steven decided to open their own medical practice. "I understood business, I understood organizational structures, I understood how to start a company. So, I was in charge of the business end of the practice, and he focused on the medicine,” LeAnn explains.

With LeAnn's entrepreneurial spirit, Steven’s medical expertise and a shared desire to help others, the two have launched several successful ventures over the years. "You don’t need everything you touch to turn to gold. All you need are one or two good ideas,” says LeAnn. One of those good ideas is their thriving cosmetic surgery practice, CYRx Md Cosmetic Surgery, which they started after Steven completed a second fellowship, this time in cosmetic surgery.

Another is a venture close to LeAnn’s heart that touches on her passion for helping others succeed in their education and careers. “Just like Steven’s passion is medicine, mine is education,” says LeAnn. She developed a five-year curriculum designed to guide students from all backgrounds through college and beyond to successful careers.

Through this program, she aims to democratize education and create a more inclusive and equitable landscape for students. “I've helped my kids and, of course, shared all the knowledge and wisdom I have with them. But if I could do that for someone else's child and make a difference in their lives, that's what it's all about. That's why it's important to me.”

Fast forward to May 19, 2021; the Cyrs, along with their four children, had been living in their spacious dream home for almost three years. That night, around midnight, LeAnn and Steven were sound asleep when their home’s security alarm went off, waking everyone in the house.

There had been severe thunderstorms and tornado warnings earlier that night. “It was unbelievable. The whole sky lit up with this horizontal lightning,” recalls Steven. Figuring that a strong gust of wind could have jostled their garage door loose and triggered the alarm, he went outside to investigate.

Inside, LeAnn settled their youngest two children who had been asleep in their parents’ room on the lower level. Because of the tornado risk, LeAnn and Steven had the kids sleep downstairs. The only one who didn’t adhere was their eldest son, Caden.

“Like a typical 16-year-old, he didn’t listen to me and stayed in his room,” says Steven. This small act of rebellion turned out to be lifesaving. Because Caden was upstairs and near where the lightning hit the house, he knew immediately what had happened and quickly alerted his family to get out of the house to safety. “Caden had the presence of mind to respond under pressure and knew what to do in that situation,” LeAnn says. “He was the hero that night.”

When the fire was finally extinguished, LeAnn and Steven went back inside to see the damage for themselves. The main floor of their home was covered in about four inches of water, the ceiling had caved in and water was still gushing down from the second level.

Nearly everything was either burned or soaked, but miraculously one of the family’s most meaningful possessions, an extensive collection of family photographs, was saved. What used to be a beautiful gallery wall of hundreds of portraits dating back to the early 1900s was stacked safely in a corner and covered in tarps by the fire fighters. This pictorial history of their family and where they came from is priceless and, of the entire collection, only two were lost.

By the next morning, the recovery had already begun. A restoration service was in action at their home, extracting water and setting up dryers—a proactive measure that is crucial in preventing mold growth. And the following day, another ally arrived: PURE Claims Adjuster Julie Ivy.

Julie provided the Cyrs with what LeAnn describes as “concierge-like service.” Julie was a central figure in the complex coordination of the rebuild, as well as the difficulty of getting back to life after the devastation. “You don't realize what you need when you're displaced,” says Steven. “She did an amazing job of thinking of every little detail in our lives that we wouldn't even have thought of. She was literally a godsend.”

Leading with empathy

When someone loses everything in a traumatic event, it is often easier to sympathize with them than it is to stand in their shoes and comprehend the full extent of their emotions. At PURE, we expect all of our colleagues to demonstrate empathy. We select new employees based, in part, on a test of their emotional intelligence, including their ability to be empathetic, and we hire specialists to train our people to further develop this skill. Empathy is key in building trust and a strong bond between members and their claims adjusters during the claims process—whether it’s a small jewelry loss that takes a couple days to resolve or the total loss of a house that takes years to rebuild.

“She is an amazing communicator,” LeAnn says. “There were never any gray areas.” When challenges arose, such as frustration with a contractor's performance, Julie stepped in and resolved the issue. “She was the voice of reason,” LeAnn recalls. “A great listener, and a great problem solver.”

The Cyrs needed a temporary home that could accommodate their family during what turned out to be a two-year rebuild. A close friend introduced them to neighbors who were looking to rent out their six-bedroom house. As it turns out, the neighbors were also PURE members who had experienced a serious claim themselves. They were delighted to help. “Because they are members too, they were familiar with the process,” says LeAnn. “They just said, ‘I know exactly how this works, let me tell you all about it.’”

This sense of community and being there for each other in times of need is not at all new among the PURE membership. In fact, when it doesn’t happen organically as in the case of the Cyrs, PURE has connected members who have been through large losses so they can support each other through the process.

"One thing I think PURE members could take away from our story,” offers Steven, “make sure your policy covers what you need. When your home is 5, 10, 20 years old, there will be a difference between the price you paid originally and the cost to rebuild it and replace the items within it today. And you want to be sure your policy covers that difference.”

The Cyr’s Homeowners policy covered the cost of rebuilding and replacing furnishings at current prices1. It also covered the rental of an interim home, clothing, kenneling and care for their dogs and access to a professional decorator who project-managed the gargantuan, time-consuming task of selecting and replacing all the furnishings and fittings in the house from top to bottom.

“It’s really difficult, having your home destroyed and your life upended,” says LeAnn. “The one thing that I think this experience really taught me is the truth of that saying, ‘Home is where the heart is.’ Your home is your sanctuary. You create that sanctuary with your family, and you can have that anywhere.”

Steven agrees. “What's important is who's in your life and not what’s in your life. Even in a horrible, devastating situation, you look back and realize it was part of a larger story,” he says. “Beauty can spring from the ashes in your life.”

1. Coverage subject to policy as issued.