Michelle Henderson’s boyfriend of two years proposed to her Friday evening, but she wasn’t sure what was happening — at least not at first.
She didn’t know what was about to happen as the couple approached the Courthouse on the Square; she didn’t know what was happening as a friend of theirs began to play Bruno Mars’ “Marry You” on a portable speaker; nor did she understand what was going on when a six-person squad of dancers from Texas Woman’s University burst into a flash mob.
She was surprised when dancer Melissa Gonzalez pulled her away from her boyfriend to dance with them, and shocked when lead dancer Martha Hernandez called her by name. It wasn’t until Hernandez handed an engagement ring to Val Vera, Henderson’s soon-to-be fiance, that the picture began to crystalize.
Immediately after the fact, Henderson was still in shock and Vera was clearly pleased with himself and all of his support.
“Is there more?” Henderson said, looking at Vera. “I’m so totally ... I don’t have words to describe it.”
“Because of my limited dexterity, I’ve had the wedding ring in my backpack for like two months, so I asked Martha, ‘Can you please take the ring, [and] keep it?’” Vera said.
Vera, 50, was born with muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair. The plan was to have Hernandez hold onto the ring and give it back to Vera during his proposal at the end of the dance routine.
Vera made the initial handoff on Monday when he met with Hernandez and two other dancers to talk about the specifics of the proposal. The dancers told Henderson how they had teared up when Vera showed them the ring that day.
“Having the engagement ring is really nerve-racking,” Hernandez said Wednesday evening. “I’ve left it in one of my drawers and haven’t touched it.”
Vera first reached out to dancers at TWU roughly six weeks ago and heard back one week later. Hernandez agreed to take on the choreography and gather dancers. Including her, six dancers performed during the flash mob.
“I’ve never met either one of them before, but once I got in contact with Val we were like, ‘OK, it’s the real deal, we are doing this,’” Hernandez said Wednesday.
The dancers met as a group four times over the past three weeks to rehearse for the event, volunteering their time between schoolwork and jobs.
“Everyone has worked really hard with the time crunch that we have had,” Hernandez said. “We got the whole dance done in two rehearsals and just practiced as much as we could the other rehearsals.”
Long distance made to work
Henderson, 51, and Vera, 50, first connected through a dating and support website directed toward people with disabilities. Henderson had her vocal cords partially paralyzed following esophageal cancer, “so she speaks at a really low whisper,” Vera said.
Vera, who was previously married, said he wasn’t looking to begin dating someone but he felt a connection with Henderson. Both are Chicago natives, though Vera had since moved to Texas. The two traveled across the country to see each other before deciding to settle in Denton this past November.
Vera took an immediate liking to the city and has felt welcomed by the community. He is involved with a local disability caucus and has plans to volunteer further.
Henderson shares his interest in volunteering and is interested in pursuing a degree from TWU.