Kate and Kevin Stein
On Wednesday, February 22 2012, Erica Aguilar spoke with Kevin Stein at the KUT Studios about the Central Texas Oral Histories Project.
Kevin Stein: My name is Kevin Stein. I am also 34 years old. And I’m feeling really weirded out by all the young people at UT and I haven’t been here for several years.
KUT News: Did you ever get the chance to absorb and kind of sit down –
Kate Stein: I mean, it’s been several months, a long process, but definitely. I mean, I’m sure if we actually make it back in the home, too, I think there will be some residual.
KUT News: When did you go back? That was the first day [that we met], right?
Kate Stein: We went back pretty much every day that first week, didn’t we?
Kevin Stein: Yeah, probably several times. Yeah.
KUT News: What did you guys go back for?
Kevin Stein: Just to poke around, just to see if there was anything we could find. Our neighbors were part of, what’s the church organization?
Kate Stein: Austin Christian Fellowship?
Kevin Stein: Yeah. And they recruited a ton of, you know, people to come in and help us sift through the fire. So, you know, Kate and I, and we had her brother, and then eight strangers just sifting for hours. I only hung out there for about four hours, and that’s all I could take, and they were out there for eight to ten hours.
KUT News: What do you mean all you could take?
Kevin Stein: Well, emotionally. But, then also, there is all the chemicals and the embers and there is still some heat and you’re inhaling it, you’re getting it in your eyes and it was still 100 degrees, 104 degrees, so.
Kate Stein: Yeah, I mean, it was like that for longer than it should have been just cause we’d wanted to sort things out with the insurance before clearing the lot which our neighbors were very gracious about, yeah.
Kevin Stein: And every time you’re in there, you’re kicking it up, you’re digging, you know –
Kate Stein: – and the flames ignited again. I don’t know if you remember that. We were let back in the neighborhood on Tuesday –
Kevin Stein: – three days later –
Kate Stein: And I think on Thursday we went back in to see the insurance adjuster, and I guess it was police officers or the fire department, I don’t remember who, came by and basically said, you know, they had to put the fire out again, ‘cause it started smoldering again. And, you know, everybody’s kind of on edge, right? ‘Cause there are still homes very close by and they were concerned about their kids playing on the, you know, the lot and everything.
KUT News: Were they upset because it went up again?
Kate Stein: No, just, I think, concerned. And of course we weren’t even living in the neighborhood at the time but there were a lot of flare ups at night, you know, they would throw the, I don’t know what they’re called, but the “night flares” I think? When they would see hot spots so they would know where to shoot the water and they were helicopters over at night, you know it was just a lot of trauma I think in the neighborhood, so –
Kevin Stein: You know, and I think, Kate and I – you mentioned in the piece that we weren’t there that day, we did not have to go through the evacuation process. All of our neighbors who did, they still remember the smoke and the fire and chaos and people running around and so they had the trauma of that, and so whenever they heard fire trucks, whenever they heard helicopters, they immediately relived it. So that’s what she meant, like, that’s why everyone was kind of on edge for several days, you know.
KUT News: I mean, and that’s also the reason why it’s very interesting to call all the different people from this weekend it’s because they all saw it from different perspectives. I’m bringing in a pastor, Mike and Martha Wycoff, who were at the church on the lake, I forget what it’s called –
Kate Stein: Oh, St. Luke’s on the Lake.
Kevin Stein: Yep.
KUT News: St. Luke’s on the Lake, because they were basically sheltered there for that whole weekend.
Kate Stein: Yep, definitely.
KUT News: So I want to get his perspective on it.
Kevin Stein: We got a good story about them, too.
KUT News: Really?
Kevin Stein: Yeah.
Kate Stein: We had a little support group which we went to and I think I cried for about two hours straight.
Kevin Stein: If not longer.
Kate Stein: It was awesome.
Kevin Stein: They offered, they had, one of their parishioners is a therapist that deals in trauma, and so they just kind of reached out to everyone in the community, whether you lost a home or were affected by it in any way or had family members; they said, please, just come by, it’s going to be a safe place for us to just talk and she ran us through some trauma exercises. And it was the first time in, I don’t know, was that like day three or four, somewhere in there.
Kate Stein: That was Sunday.
Kevin Stein: That was Sunday.
Kate Stein: So, it had been almost a week.
Kevin Stein: Literally a week. And it was the first opportunity that Kate took to breathe and she collapsed.
Kate Stein: Before that, it was insurance, it was finding a place to live, it was finding clothes, it was everything else.
Kevin Stein: Yeah.
KUT News: You know, when I met you Kate, you were going. You were going, like, there was no stopping you. You know, can I interview you and you’re like, “Yeah, let’s do this. Let’s get it done.” Is that just the way you operate, how do you –
Kate Stein: Most of the time. Kevin will say I don’t cry much and, you know, show my emotions very much, which is probably a fault of mine, but, I mean, it’s how I get through it.
KUT News: Moving through.
Kevin Stein: Yeah. And when she had an opportunity, when she was in a safe environment, it just went.
Kate Stein: And wouldn’t stop.
Kevin Stein: Yeah. It was great. That was great -
Kate Stein: It was really good.
Kevin Stein: And hence, you know, we are not churchgoers. And St. Luke’s was incredible and welcoming to the whole neighborhood and community and I don’t know, it felt really good to have them.
KUT News: So, you guys start me off where you decided to leave for the weekend, if it was the weekend or the day.
Kate Stein: So, we know the time was about 3:30, and we probably wouldn’t know that other than our daughter woke up a little bit late from her nap; she usually wakes up around 2 – 2:30, and we went out to my Mom’s –
Kevin Stein: Yeah, we were running late, we were supposed to be there are at four.
Kate Stein: We were running late, exactly, so we were a little bit, you know, hectic getting in the car. We took our dog, Abbey, because she’s got a good space to run around there, which is, you know, again, lucky because 99% of the time we don’t have her with us and piled into Kevin’s car. We didn’t really take much, except for what we would have that day, you know, because we were coming back that night and headed out to my Mom’s place.
Kevin Stein: We, I mean, it was –
Kate Stein: I noticed how windy it was, I do remember that and I noticed it was, I mean, it was hot, right? And there was kind of a stink in the air, I mean, I think back retrospectively, whatever –
KUT News: Yeah.
Kate Stein: But when we got to my Mom’s place, I guess about five o’clock, they had the golf game on and we saw the Bastrop ticker go by and –
Kevin Stein: And, at that point, we started watching the TV and the Bastrop fires had started and the news was now fully covering it with all the images and everyone is gathered around: this is nuts, this is crazy and then you see the little ticker –
Kate Stein: Steiner Ranch –
Kevin Stein: Steiner Ranch wildfires. And so by the time, we kind of –
Kate Stein: We thought nothing of it, honestly.
Kevin Stein: I mean, I was thinking it could be a small thing, they will put it out in no time.
KUT News: Well, Steiner Ranch is huge.
Kevin Stein: Yeah.
KUT News: So, it could be, you know, anywhere.
Kevin Stein: Yeah, exactly. And so we ended up just kind of watching the ticker and I think, at some point, debating whether we drove back and we are like, “No, we’re here, we’re safe, the whole family is here. The authorities will take care of what they need to take care of, there is nothing that we can do.” And then they started doing mandatory evacuation and all that. So, that’s when we knew it was incredibly serious. And then at some point, we decided to, we’ve got some friends who live in Anderson Mill, and we decided that’s close to our home, we’ll go stay up there, leave our daughter, Natalie, and our dog with Grandma, and we went up there thinking: oh, they will let us back in at like midnight.
KUT News: The line was so long at night.
Kate Stein: Well, we didn’t know that and also, I think, there were some pictures that came out, you know, I immediately got on Facebook and online because, you know, the –
Kevin Stein: You did that at our friend’s house.
Kate Stein: The TV news wasn’t giving us a lot of pictures and things like that because they were so, they weren’t let into the community, you know. So, I think that when we saw the picture, at least for me, when I saw the picture, they are building a Randall’s at the entrance, and when I saw where the construction was and then in relation to where our home was and I saw the smoke, I was like, that’s our neighborhood, like, that could be our house.
Kevin Stein: That’s our pocket.
Kate Stein: And then we saw, I think it was on KVUE, right, it was a picture of our house burning and Kevin’s like: “Oh that’s our house!” like, he was like, “Oh my gosh, that’s our house,” and I was like, “There is no way. Somebody would have called us by now.” And sure enough, it was our house. You could see, you know, the office window, the garage and, you know.
Kevin Stein: We’ve got some great photos of our house on fire, so, you know.
KUT News: The way you say that.
Kevin Stein: Well, it is, I mean, it’s –
Kate Stein: It is actually neat to have those, I think, because, I mean, I don’t know, it makes it more real. I don’t know, I guess maybe not having been there when it happened, I don’t know, just some memory of it. It sounds sick, doesn’t it, but –
KUT News: Well, I mean, it’s a historic event, you know? This weekend has kind of become something like that, you know. In that – this was a really huge historic event – that not very many people of this generation have ever seen a fire this big.
Kate Stein: It’s true.
KUT News: I mean, have you guys ever seen fires?
Kevin Stein: No.
Kate Stein: No, but it’s amazing. You know, we tell our story and people are like, “Oh yeah, I’ve lost my home when I was a kid or I know somebody –”
Kevin Stein: A lot of folks in California.
Kate Stein: Yeah, “Or my Grandmother lost her home when she was 16,” or whatever, it’s like everybody knows somebody who has been through this and, you know, they obviously made it through.
Kevin Stein: You know, one of, just kind of timeline. We sifted through everything and then when Kate ended up being able to reach out to people and talk to people at work a little bit, one of the guys that she works with is based in California and one of his, we met this amazing woman who –
Kate Stein: United Policyholders.
Kevin Stein: Yeah. She was friends with him and she is an advocate for wildfire victims.
Kate Stein: She is very active in Bastrop right now, helping them.
Kevin Stein: Yeah. So, she flew out to deal with Bastrop and came up to Austin for a day and met with Kate and a bunch of other folks in Steiner and had just an incredible wealth of information on how to rebuild, how to deal with insurance companies, how to process.
Kate Stein: Yep. That was a huge part of getting back on our feet.
Kevin Stein: It’s a huge reason why I think we are on our feet. The support, and we were, we found out we were underinsured significantly, and she gave us a ton of advice on how to deal with it. Not legal advice, but how to seek legal advice and then just some basic things we can do in dealing with the insurance company that you don’t need a lawyer for and it was incredibly invaluable. That, coupled with Kate’s amazing tenaciousness and –
Kate Stein: Well, and just the amazing support though from everybody, community to work to family to friends, I mean everybody, you know, helped us all get it through.
KUT News: So, when you saw your home on KVUE, you kind of like: WAH That’s our home. Shit. It’s kind of like what you did, right? What did you do?
Kate Stein: I didn’t believe him. I was like, there is no way, again, I didn’t know how bad it was. I thought we would have gotten a phone call like: “Hey, your house burned down,” you know, which we got, what, a day later, when they were able to –
Kevin Stein: Yeah, Monday night.
Kate Stein: I mean, their first priority was putting out the fires, which should have been their first priority, so I was, by no means, upset that they weren’t reaching out to us; it was a little bit frustrating, but just for the circumstances.
Kevin Stein: You were on Facebook –
Kate Stein: Yeah, I mean, so how we found out. I don’t if we, did we tell you this part? So, I was on Facebook and just, you know, connecting with people in the neighborhood because everybody was posting things on the Steiner Ranch Social Committee page and it was a great resource of information. And there were a couple of pilots that went over in their private planes just taking aerial photos of the neighborhood. And I think the first round came out at like 10 – 11 a.m., Monday and, of course, you know, it was Memorial Day so were off, or Labor Day, so we were off from work. Anyway, you know, just judging where the green started and where the browned already burned areas began, I knew we were safe, and then another round came out around one that actually showed our specific street and, at first glance, because it was so panned out, I was like, we’re good. Again, I could see the green –
Kevin Stein: And all the homes were there.
Kate Stein: And all the homes were there and then I was, you know, analyzing it even further; I think I even posted something on Facebook, “I see our house!” and I was so excited. Then, I’m looking at it and I’m like, why is the rest of, why are all the trees brown, like, why does it look different and so I panned in, right, or zoomed in and I was like, I don’t see my roof. You know, we had just moved there in June, so I didn’t know what my house looked like from above, right, so I get on Google maps and try to see what that looks like and, “I’m like yeah, it’s not there” and I, of course, send it to several friends and I’m like: give me your opinion. I want your honest opinion. I need to deal with this. What do you see?
Kevin Stein: And we were doing, we were getting on Google maps looking, comparing that aerial photo from the pilot to Google maps, trying to lay things over. We found that picture on KVUE so we figured out what street that’s on, so we went to Google street image and tried to pan the camera around to see what the angle is and that’s –
KUT News: Wow, a lot of technology and social media there.
Kevin Stein: It was, well, you know, we’re going nuts and we’re stuck at our friend’s house –
Kate Stein: That’s the worst part, I think, and I said it in the interview, right? Initially, I mean, just not knowing. I was like, just, you know, and then I don’t know if you heard about the Facebook guys that were, there was one who was actually riding his bike around the neighborhood –
KUT News: Andy Jones. He’s coming in tomorrow.
Kate Stein: Is he?
KUT News: Yeah.
Kate Stein: Awesome. So, I mean –
KUT News: I think it’s just an interesting perspective.
Kate Stein: And so tactful, like he, I posted about our street and I was like, what about our house, you know, and I get crickets, you know, nothing. He messaged me later and he was like, “I had to be tactful and I didn’t want you to find out that way,” and I appreciated that.
Kevin Stein: Yeah. He was letting people know if they were safe.
Kate Stein: Right.
Kevin Stein: And if their animals were okay and any bad news he was letting the authorities do it.
KUT News: Take care of -
Kate Stein: It was well handled, yep.
KUT News: It was funny, um, I was talking to Greg about him. You know, Greg Lawson, and he said, “I saw him, yeah, I saw him riding around on the bike and I kept saying, ‘you need to go,’ and he kept saying, ‘Oh, I’m on my way out! I’m on my way out!’” And he was like, “After I figured out what he was doing I let him run around.” I thought that was really funny. So this was the day of still, like, you know, you’re doing sort of your investigation on your own.
Kevin Stein: This is Monday morning.
Kate Stein: So, it was the day after the fire, I mean, I think, just based on all accounts, I think our house was one of the first to go, right?
Kevin Stein: Yeah. Sunday night we got to our friend’s house in Anderson Mill; our kid is down with Grandma, we probably just had a bunch of gin and tonics and –
KUT News: What else can you do?
Kevin Stein: This is what we’re going to do. We are going to sit here and just wait and they just kind of waited with us. So, they took some time off from work too, when they knew that we weren’t able to get back in and, you know, help us out and drove us around and, you know, go to Target to grab some clean clothes.
KUT News: Did you guys wait in that really long line when they started opening the –
Kate Stein: Neighborhood on Tuesday, yep.
KUT News: Were you guys the first to get in?
Kate Stein: No. I mean, what was it, 11 when it opened? Was that right and I think we planned on getting down there at 11, of course, we had to wait to get in. We probably got in around 11:30 or 12 is my guess.
Kevin Stein: And at that point too, we knew our house was gone. The Sheriff’s Department had called us.
Kate Stein: Umm, hmm, they called us the day before.
Kevin Stein: Oh, so one of the other things that we had done on Monday, we did all the stuff on the computer that we can and then we went to Vandergrift High School and put our name on the Red Cross list and –
Kate Stein: With our address and they would call.
Kevin Stein: And that’s where they got our contact info to give us a call.
KUT News: And then that’s –
Kevin Stein: Since we’re not in the phonebook, we just, you know, cell phone –
KUT News: Sure, cell phone.
Kevin Stein: Yeah, so they called us on our cells.
KUT News: What was the list for – the American Red Cross with supplies when you needed help?
Kevin Stein: And it was also just a contact list for if we find out any information, how can we contact you, you know, about either pets, people –
Kate Stein: And I had already registered online with Red Cross to let people know we were safe, because that is one of the services they offer is to, if you’re in an affected area, right? Register online to let people know that, at least, you’re okay.
KUT News: What was it like to be part of something, that big, that dangerous? You know? You always hear on the news, hey, you know, with a big hurricane or something like that, um, but it’s never you.
Kate Stein: So, I will say that we didn’t I think experience it the same as the rest of the public; ours was a very personal experience, whereas I think somebody watching the news in Texas of all the fires from, you know, I don’t know, St. Louis, let’s say, right, where they are removed from it, they would look at it as just the number of fires and the people affected, I don’t think we saw as much as coverage as people watching it from the outside. It’s much more localized, I don’t know.
Kevin Stein: Specific to Steiner too, there were 24 homes, there were 23 homes that burned down in a neighborhood altogether and they were altogether experiencing it, and we were farther away, I don’t know, and so –
Kate Stein: And we had also just moved in, we didn’t really know anybody, you know.
KUT News: Right, because you moved in June, right?
Kevin Stein: Yeah.
Kate Stein: June, yep, we had been in ten weeks.
Kevin Stein: Yeah.
Kate Stein: Tell me about it, I know.
KUT News: I mean, it’s, I mean, did you guys –
Kate Stein: I was so ready to be done moving. Like, we had just sold our house, I mean, you know, having the house on the market, getting it ready to sell.
Kevin Stein: Ah, the best –
Kate Stein: Selling it, moving it, moving in, feeling settled. We had just bought our last piece of furniture.
Kevin Stein: We bought our last piece of furniture, which was our dining room table. We had our friends over on Saturday night, had our first dinner at the dining room table and then the next day the house burns down.
Kate Stein: But, you know, I mean –
Kevin Stein: But, it’s, Kate and I kept the perspective the whole time –
Kate Stein: It’s stuff.
Kevin Stein: We had so many neighbors, and our friends who were living in the neighborhood but didn’t lose their homes. And they were a huge wealth of support ready to do anything for us; cook for us, help us sift through –
Kate Stein: Just checking in on us, just being like, you know, how are you guys doing? What do you need?
Kevin Stein: And the amount of clothes –
Kate Stein: Just asking that, you know.
Kevin Stein: They heard, “Oh, three-year-old girl lost everything.” Our daughter has so much pink princess –
Kate Stein: We tried to shield from that and that’s all gone. She loves Cinderella.
Kevin Stein: She has a full year worth of clothes, but, you know, we think and we see what happened with everybody in Bastrop and, you know, yeah, they’re going through the same thing we are, but then all of their neighbors are too. Their entire community of support system is gone. You know, the amount of people that we had to deal with and it’s very frustrating to deal with, being underinsured, well, imagine dealing with it with no insurance –
KUT News: There were a few folks like that.
Kevin Stein: Yeah. And so that’s –
Kate Stein: That’s what I think my biggest take-away from all this, like, just how lucky I feel. Number one, we made it all out safe, you know. Number two, we are going to rebuild in the same spot, we are going to be okay, you know, we are going to be back on our feet. And then just to see all the people that came out of the woodwork, you know, just the generosity and the support; it was overwhelming.
Kevin Stein: It was very overwhelming.
KUT News: So you already new that the house was destroyed. Gone up. Was the image of what you saw in the house comparable to what you had in your head?
Kevin Stein: No, I mean, I think we were, when we were driving down, I think we were talking about: Alright, just whatever your feeling, feel it, you know, take it all in. We thought it was going to be a very traumatic experience to see our home gone and actually we drove up on it and it was, no, it’s gone. It was a relief. We did not feel the trauma of losing all of our stuff in that moment like we thought we were going to. It was more of a –
Kate Stein: It was a relief to be sure, right?
Kevin Stein: Yeah.
Kate Stein: I think, because we had been waiting for so long to know.
Kevin Stein: And it’s all gone, there is not a drop of, there is not a piece of anything; it’s gone.
Kate Stein: And I remember driving down Quinlan, too. We hadn’t even turned onto Steiner Ranch Boulevard yet and just, you know, I think you said that, like: feel what you’re feeling, you know, just get the emotion out now. And, you know, I think that’s when it hit me and then we drove up and it was like okay, now let’s deal with it.
KUT News: I told this to Greg, too. I said, you know, there is a woman I met out at Bastrop who she said, “I’m pretty sure my home is gone. The fire started on my block.” They were putting out posters with lists of addresses, but it was going slowly. I said, “Well have you been able to find it?” And she says, “No.” “Well, if you’re so sure, I don’t mean to be mean, but why are you still waiting?” And she said, “Because I can’t go, I mean, if there is a possibility that it might –”
Kate Stein: I think that’s why we visited the house every single day that week. You know, we both took the week off from work. I think you tried to go back.
Kevin Stein: I tried to go back, it was dumb.
Kate Stein: I was like: I’m not going back until Monday because I’ll be a mess. And they were great, you know, to let me do that and just all the stuff that we had to deal with. But, I mean, just to be there, to make it seem real and every time we went, people would stop by and see how we’re doing and just to talk about it, you know, just to process.
KUT News: Why did you try to go back?
Kevin Stein: Because I thought, I work for Twin Liquors and I managed one of their stores and I thought I needed to work there, and it was also to be a little bit normal, but as soon as I got there I realized I can’t do anything normal; I can’t –
Kate Stein: Well and for Natalie we did. We sent her back to school. She spent, let’s see, my Mom brought her back over, I think, on Tuesday night, right? After we knew and she went back to school on Wednesday and, I mean, she didn’t know any different. She was happy, she was back with her friends, her teachers, you know.
KUT News: Did she ever ask?
Kate Stein: She knows now because we go visit the new house. The house we are in right now we call the beach house and the new house is the new house. So, because we had just been on a beach vacation over the summer and so, you know, it was like, this is temporary, we are just going to have a good time, we are on vacation.
Kevin Stein: Yeah, this is the beach house.
Kate Stein: So, it’s cute, yeah, she’s a great kid. But, you know, I mean, again, just all the new stuff, I think, was a big distraction and then just keeping her consistent with her schedule and my Mom, of course, was amazing to be there at the drop of a hat.
Kevin Stein: Yeah, Kate’s Mom was incredible.
KUT News: What did she ask, Natalie, if she did ask?
Kate Stein: She didn’t ask ever. We just started talking about, you know, how we are going to this new house and, yeah, I think –
KUT News: She was little when –
Kate Stein: She was two-and-a-half –
Kevin Stein: Yeah, she just turned three in December.
Kate Stein: I don’t remember –
KUT News: I feel like I know her now. It’s so funny.
Kevin Stein: Man, she was great. She would go to daycare, which she had been going to, and then at night, we were staying with our friends, and she had spent a ton of time over there to begin with. And then, our friends, coincidentally, they were going on a week’s vacation to go visit their family in California. So, we had their whole house to ourselves and we just, she just rolled with it.
Kate Stein: Yeah, she did. And I think the only time it really came up was, you know, now that we are in the rebuild process, she needs a reason so we started explaining it to her. I mean, she is beyond missing anything that she would have lost because she doesn’t have that length of memory and whatever she does miss, things have replaced it. She’s fine. So, you know, we talked about how the house burned down her. She blames it on her friend Shirley. I was like: really, Shirley didn’t burn your house down. She’s three, what do you expect? She doesn’t like going to the new house yet, because there is dangerous objects and Mommy doesn’t let her run around like a crazy person, but she does like mud and there is lots of mud.
KUT News: That’s good. And you guys can only, you know, do the handprint thing –
Kate Stein: We did but they covered it up with a column. We’ll do it again, it’s alright, we got steps and stuff to put in.
Kevin Stein: Yeah, we’ll do something.
KUT News: Cool. So, how is the rebuilding, well, before I ask that question, when did you decide that you were going to rebuild?
Kate Stein: It was never a question.
Kevin Stein: Yep. We, you know, we had just moved in. We searched for a neighborhood that, we were stretching it to move in there to begin with, but it’s –
Kate Stein: We planned on staying a long time so it made sense.
Kevin Stein: It made sense, it makes sense for the schools, for Natalie. We just knew that was the right neighborhood already and so we’re like I don’t want to go through that process again. I’m not going to look; we’re not going to find another neighborhood because we’ve already been looking.
KUT News: Was there an actual discussion?
Kate Stein: Not really. We both made the assumption.
Kevin Stein: That was about the extent of the conversation.
Kate Stein: Yeah, we were both very much on the same page and then, too, just the outpouring of support, right? At that point, we were like we picked the right neighborhood. These are great people, we want to live near them, you know.
KUT News: So when you’re driving up there are you like, you know, if it’s done we’re just going to rebuild?
Kate Stein: I don’t think we talked about it that early. I think it was more, let’s see, we drove in Tuesday. We had the insurance adjuster come out on Thursday and, at that point, we really started looking at, you know, the nuts and bolts of everything, like, you know: how are we going to make this work? What are our options? How does this work?
Kevin Stein: Where do you start? How do you start? Who do we talk to? And I think we really did wait for the insurance adjuster to get out there because that’s an actual person who can tell us –
Kate Stein: Well, we didn’t have a copy of our insurance policy, right, and they can’t send that to you electronically, I guess it’s a legal thing. We just needed a human to talk to and, of course, we had filed the claim, but there were so many claims. They lost more homes, I think, in that weekend then they do over a normal ten year period, is what they told us, so – not just them but other insurance companies, I think that’s the statistic. I mean, understandably, they were overwhelmed with claims.
KUT News: It sounds like you have been keen in trying to get the ball rolling to rebuild, is that true?
Kevin Stein: Well, she’s the lead. Yeah, what do they say, follow the leader, get out of the way. She leads; I follow and I get out of the way.
Kate Stein: I consult with Kevin; he has an opinion and I listen, if I don’t agree, I just “no.” I’m kidding.
Kevin Stein: Well, no, but I fully recognize that we would not be where we are right now if she hadn’t done everything that she had done.
Kate Stein: I’m a little more black and white when it comes to that. I mean, before this, I paid the bills and, you know, that’s just the way my brain works. We compliment each other that way, we’re very different.
KUT News: I’m you, my husband is Kevin.
Kate Stein: Well and that’s why we work, you know, and I think that’s good for Natalie, for example, to see both, you know, personalities. It’s a responsibility that I’m happy to take on, no regrets. We found a wonderful, wonderful builder who is phenomenal and expediting the process for us and has been so communicative and I mean, they have never had a situation like us before so they are, you know, I think learning along with us, but they’ve never built a house so fast. I mean, no hiccups; they’ve been great.
KUT News: When did you guys start?
Kate Stein: We started right before Christmas. We obviously needed to work things out with insurance. In the meantime, we were planning, you know, there was obviously the debate of whether we keep the slab or not; insurance was actually great to let us bypass the engineer’s exam because, you know, I thought about insuring that slab and building a house on top of that slab and it would just be a mess. So, we decided to just get rid of it and that opened up the possibility of redesigning the home.
Kevin Stein: But I’d say it took about five weeks to find the builder. So, about five weeks after the fire, maybe six weeks, we picked Brad Marshall Homes.
KUT News: What, and then this is kind of an odd question, I’m sorry, but I’m just curious to know what do you do to pick a builder, like, what does that mean?
Kate Stein: That’s hard because we both work, right, and we’re also dealing with other things like finding a home, finding, you know, clothes to wear and restocking our pantry and whatever.
Kevin Stein: And we had never thought for one second about building a home.
Kate Stein: Nor had we wanted to.
Kevin Stein: Yeah.
Kate Stein: We always wanted to buy something and move in. I do have some friends that have built homes, you know, the community was organizing different events where they would kind of showcase different builders. We had a lot of great options. Actually, our friend at work, Michael, recommended our builder because he works with them, he does real estate on the side and he was like they will take care of you; they are amazing and he was right. That’s how we ended up going with them.
KUT News: Is it a fun process? I mean, like, you get to kind of –
Kate Stein: It’s weird. I mean –
Kevin Stein: Just now.
Kate Stein: I actually like home improvement, you know, in our first house we laid our own tile, I scraped popcorn, I put up crown molding, like, I like power tools and like whatever.
KUT News: Cool.
Kate Stein: I don’t know. This was overwhelming because there were so many decisions, you know, and it’s like where do you start? Do you start with the tile? Do you start with, you know, everything?
KUT News: What about you?
Kevin Stein: I’ve got a couple of opinions and, for the most part, it’s whatever Kate wants because I’m going to be –
Kate Stein: You have your babies, though, in the house that I let you kind of run with.
Kevin Stein: I’ve got a surround sound system.
KUT News: Nice. That’s nice.
Kevin Stein: It’s ridiculous and, I feel guilty but I shouldn’t that what we have or what we are going to end up with is all brand new, the house we bought was built in 1994; this is going to be a 2012 house built by people who build million dollar homes professionally. It’s going to be a great home and –
KUT News: It’s going to be y’all’s house.
Kevin Stein: It’s going to be our home. They are cutting, I mean, I don’t know, it’s going to be beyond what I think we ever imagined we would have.
KUT News: Do you think this home has more meaning to you?
Kate Stein: Oh, way, yeah.
Kevin Stein: Yeah, I mean, we know every nook and cranny of it before we even step foot in it.
Kate Stein: And we thought about every square foot, you know, going into it; designed it for our family.
KUT News: Such as?
Kate Stein: I mean, just there were things in the other house that we didn’t need, like a formal living room and we wanted, you know, a different shaped kitchen and –
Kevin Stein: Even the small things of like what type of entertaining do we want to do, you know, the other house had like a formal living room, no one ever goes in that, that’s for the Christmas tree only.
Kate Stein: We’re not fancy people, yeah.
KUT News: That’s true.
Kevin Stein: Yeah. So, they just made the kitchen bigger and the dining room bigger. And no walls, it just all kind of flows in and out and so –
KUT News: Sort of like a loft style.
Kevin Stein: Yeah, exactly. And, you know, we realized that: oh, when we’re entertaining and we’re cooking in the kitchen, no matter we do, everyone is going to end up in the kitchen. So, we made it comfortable. We’ve got a bar, we will put stools, it will be good.
KUT News: This sounds like fun, actually, you know –
Kate Stein: It’s becoming fun. Yeah, now that they’ve actually started the process and most of the decisions have been made.
Kevin Stein: And now that we have the money to finish it and we are going to have money to furnish it.
Kate Stein: That was the struggle before. It was going to be –
Kevin Stein: We found out we were about $100,000 underinsured.
KUT News: How did you find that out?
Kate Stein: Based on the money they told us it would cost to rebuild our house and what we were actually insured for and what they weren’t going to pay us. They put that in writing and in parenthesis is the cost that they will not cover.
Kevin Stein: Yeah.
KUT News: Were you upset?
Kate Stein: I was very upset and especially, I mean, well, we had been in the house for ten weeks. I’ll just leave it at that. You know, their job is to sell us the proper amount of insurance and then to insure us and take care of us if something, the unthinkable does happen.
Kevin Stein: I could understand if –
Kate Stein: But, you know, we have taken care of it since then. I don’t know if we want to go there.
Kevin Stein: If we had been there for 15 years and you don’t revisit your insurance policy –
Kate Stein: I could see that, yeah.
Kevin Stein: I could see a gap.
Kate Stein: Three months, not so much.
Kevin Stein: Yeah.
KUT News: Yeah.
Kate Stein: Kind of a mess but, again, it’s over, and I have to say work was great because it’s a preferred provider for work and I don’t think we would have gotten a proper settlement had they not interjected, you know –
Kevin Stein: And said, you know, they pretty much said if you don’t help us take care of our employee –
Kate Stein: Well, that’s what I said because, honestly, when you have 24 families in the same exact situation and all the other insurance companies are, you know, taking care of their own and then, you know, we are being left out on the street. Something is not quite right here, you know? We have worked hard for everything, you know, that we have and – when I found out in December that the extra money was going to be coming and that they were going to make it right, it was like the biggest load off. I think, even more than, you know, finding a builder and starting the rebuild process, it was like – money stresses me out. I think it does a lot of people, right, and when you’re, yeah.
Kevin Stein: It was the first time she wasn’t angry in three months. She was angry all the time. Yeah, money and moving; those are the two biggest stressors.
Kate Stein: Well and I felt guilty for sitting for five minutes and doing something for myself, you know what I mean, because I was like it’s not resolved yet, this is ridiculous. So, I would write another email or, you know.
KUT News: Yeah and then start hitting backspace and then write it again.
Kate Stein: Right.
KUT News: And then write it again and hit backspace.
Kate Stein: Oh yeah, I was, many, many edits. Because you have to stay professional and, yeah, right.
KUT News: Keep your cool because you can’t move forward if it doesn’t. Okay, so I’m sorry, we’re hopping around everywhere in this interview, but, it’s a conversation now.
Kevin Stein: You cut it up and –
KUT News: Yeah, I’ll cut it up and do something with it. So, you guys got to the place. What, this is very curious to me, what did you guys think when there were all these different people and strangers walking around in your house?
Kate Stein: Well, it hasn’t stopped. It seems like there is still a lot of interest in what’s going on, which I completely understand. I mean, I drive by the other homes just to kind of check them out and see where they are because, you know, some are selling, some are rebuilding, you know, just to kind of see what the landscape looks like. I think talking to some of the other people in the neighborhood who are in our same situation, they’re angry when people drive by; I understand the curiosity. One of our really good neighbors, Lori, is actually a photographer. You know, she’s a photographer by trade and also by hobby, I suppose, and she was asking me about etiquette. She was like: do you think people would be upset if I took pictures of the fires? I was like: I don’t think some people would be but some, just, I’ve heard some people rumbling about –
Kevin Stein: People don’t want to, they feel like they are gawking.
Kate Stein: Exposed, yep.
Kevin Stein: They are exposed. You know, you sitting there naked emotionally and, you know, your home is, as well. They feel very raw, emotional and angry, a lot of anger.
KUT News: You guys had a ton of media there, me being one of them, but like, there were live shots being done there too, you know, and your house was the backdrop. Did it make you feel awkward?
Kate Stein: Yep.
Kevin Stein: Yeah, I mean, I don’t like, I’m not very social, and I don’t like being around people.
KUT News: You and my husband need to have -
Kevin Stein: He sounds like a great guy; too bad you guys are moving. No, we can’t ever get together, we don’t like people. But, so I mean that was hard and we dealt with it only because it was very clear that, from the media perspective, it’s because they are trying to get information out and it wasn’t just, “Hey, this is our job and we’re trying to get a story.” It was a legitimate story. It wasn’t sensationalized. And the pure emotion and heart of friends, neighbors, community was so real that you couldn’t turn your back on it.
Kate Stein: Well and it’s where they live too. I mean, that’s the thing, you know, it’s like people are walking by and gawking, if you will, because they are curious about what’s going on because they live there. You know, that’s their community; that’s their home.
Kevin Stein: Yeah and in their minds they are thinking: “This could have been me. What would I do if this was me? What if we were home? What if our children were hurt? What if our animals were hurt?” And so they are just trying to empathize.
KUT News: What is it like to see yourself in pictures?
Kate Stein: Um, it’s weird. You know, we are both not very public people, we don’t really like the showcase spotlight.
Kevin Stein: I don’t like people taking pictures of me. I haven’t joined Facebook. I don’t like it when she puts my picture on Facebook.
Kate Stein: He gets over it; it’s fine.
KUT News: But you know, you can Google Kate Stein and Steiner Ranch and you come up with pictures, you know?
Kate Stein: I mean, it’s – I can’t control it, you know? I mean, I didn’t ask for it to happen. I mean, I don’t think any of the pictures that are on there are inappropriate, you know, everything was tastefully done, right? So it doesn’t feel too invasive other than, you know, just our everyday life is unfortunately exposed. You know, for a little while at work, it’s like who I was. Oh, she’s the one who lost her home in the fire because, you know.
KUT News: That’s kind of gotten over now?
Kate Stein: I think so, yeah. Like, I was talking to one of my outside guys who was inside traveling for some meetings and he didn’t know. Apparently, he had gotten the emails but he was just kind of that kind of person, he’s funny, and he’s like your house burned down? It was kind of nice, like refreshing: “Oh you didn’t know? Awesome! No wonder you treat me like a normal person,” when, I mean, you know, people are sweet though, they are just checking on me to see how I’ve been.
KUT News: Yeah, yeah that’s true. Interesting, wow; so, I guess, tell me what happens after that? So, you guys get to the house, media is all over, you do several interviews, you do it like a pro. He’s like, let’s get this going, man – yeah, sure I’ll talk to you. After you even told me, oh, we love KUT.
Kate Stein: It’s true, we do.
Kevin Stein: Hey, we listen to it every morning.
KUT News: It was funny, I was like wow, she has the capacity to say, “Oh yeah, I love KUT.” You told me about how you –
Kate Stein: I think I was in shock a little bit, but you know, I mean, it’s true, it is true. I still stand by that statement. I don’t remember what we did that night. We went home and –
Kevin Stein: Drank.
Kate Stein: We don’t drink that much. You’re making it sound like –
KUT News: Well, this is a circumstance so.
Kevin Stein: Whatever. Look, we’ve got nothing to do; there is literally, we can’t –
KUT News: Where did y’all stay that night?
Kevin Stein: We stayed with our friends.
Kate Stein: With friends. They put us up for, what –
Kevin Stein: A week.
Kate Stein: Ten days.
Kevin Stein: Yeah, ten days.
Kate Stein: I mean they were amazing. Just to open their home –
Kevin Stein: All the realtors in Steiner Ranch reached out, hey, this is what we do. All the people, several people who had rental properties in Steiner said they would rather give it up first to Steiner residents, rather than, you know –
Kate Stein: And they were posting that all over Facebook and I gave that to the woman who was organizing our ALE accommodations and that’s how we found our rental was actually through people offering -
Kevin Stein: So, we were able to get a rental home in Steiner, be in our neighborhood, be very close to the home and for the rebuilding process.
KUT News: That’s good.
Kevin Stein: Oh yeah, it’s great.
KUT News: And so, the next couple of days, I guess, Kate, that’s when you start taking over, you start talking to the insurance adjuster and you go out to the review – be angry for a little while, and then -
Kate Stein: It wasn’t all the time anger, just, you know.
KUT News: But then a sigh of relief come December, right?
Kate Stein: Yeah. I mean, it was, you know, I think at first, if I can go through kind of the timeline of taking care of business, it was dealing with insurance as far as getting everything adjusted, right? They have to take measurements and everything else right. And then it was: how do we secure the property, because we have children in the street, all over the street and, you know. We had that big wall standing, as you saw it. So, our first motivation was to knock that down so that nobody would be there, possibly, when it would fall on its own. And then also just put up some kind of protective barrier, because it was – and then also, we hadn’t had rain in so long right? And all the ash, and being at the top of the hill, right? I mean there are houses down at the bottom of the hill. And if all that would wash down – so we put up a silt fence and, you know, just – we didn’t want to clear anything until we were squared away with insurance. So, it would still take us a little bit of time, plus we wanted to have a builder first, because they could prepare the land as they wanted. Then it was finding a builder, and then doing all the design stuff. And then, you know, I guess, we’re focusing on repurchasing our possessions, as far as things we can move easily into the new home. So, let’s a little bit of what we are lacking right now is our own stuff, because we have basically just bought –
Kevin Stein: We haven’t bought anything; clothes.
Kate Stein: Clothes and kitchen stuff, you know, things that –
Kevin Stein: Yeah, things to cook with.
Kate Stein: Things that we can move. And, you know, we’re definitely home bodies, entertainers, right, so that’s hard to not feel like we are in our own space and it’s getting a little bit old. But the light is at the end of the tunnel.
Kevin Stein: Yeah.
Kate Stein: We’ll make it there.
Kevin Stein: They are going to be done with our brand new, custom built 2012 home end of April, beginning of May, so, you know, I mean that’s nuts.
Kate Stein: Amazing builder, yep.
KUT News: Oh wow.
Kevin Stein: You know, I think the goal we had set for ourselves was to get in somewhere by the anniversary and we’re going to be well ahead of it and moved in and settled and, you know, we’re getting really close.
KUT News: What was Christmas like?
Kate Stein: Hard. That was, I think, the hardest, actually. Just because of all the Christmas decorations and, I mean, these are formative years for Natalie.
Kevin Stein: Yeah, it was the dumbest, you know, the things that we realized that we’ve lost, we still found out every day. Like, when Christmas: Well, we don’t have a tree. Well, we buy a new tree. Oh wait, I’ve got all the Christmas decorations I’ve had since I was born.
Kate Stein: Our parents had given us a bunch of that stuff.
Kevin Stein: You know, so I had, like, I had my little handprint, I had my little thing –
Kate Stein: And stuff for your brother, too.
Kevin Stein: And all my brother’s stuff.
Kate Stein: Yep.
Kevin Stein: My dad made the awesome decision a few years back that I might really enjoy all my baby albums, so he had just given me those like a year ago. And so, we realize, okay, all of our photos of everything are gone.
KUT News: That’s the hard part, you know?
Kate Stein: Oh, yeah.
Kevin Stein: It’s all the memories, so when you pull out at Christmas, it’s all about, the holidays are all about memory and sharing that time with others.
Kate Stein: Well, and Kevin’s Mom put together a great album; just kind of, of his whole life really, stuck in one album just kind of the highlights so that was really nice.
Kevin Stein: And put little notes to it.
Kate Stein: Yep.
Kevin Stein: You know, it was the best present I got.
KUT News: Highlights right? ESPN highlights -
Kevin Stein: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Kate Stein: And not in a very good order, but that’s alright.
Kevin Stein: Yeah.
Kate Stein: We could rearrange.
Kevin Stein: Yeah.
KUT News: You know what, my Mom and I always talk about like, oh, if there was a fire, what would you get and my mom always talked about how she would just grab the photo albums first -
Kevin Stein: Yep.
KUT News: You know and run out because that’s what she, you can’t replace.
Kevin Stein: Photo albums and then in this day and age, you know, video.
Kate Stein: Yep. And that’s what I’m lamenting, right, my grandmother, she just passed in the spring of last year, she was 99 and she had passed along a bunch of photos, like, of her grandparents, like, you know 100 plus year old photos.
Kevin Stein: Of your family history.
Kate Stein: And those were all in the house. You know, Natalie’s birth video and all the ones of when she was little and then, of course, our wedding pictures, you know, had it happened, had we been married like a year later, everything would have been digital, but it wasn’t.
Kevin Stein: Yeah, that’s what we miss is memories, photo albums, videos.
Kate Stein: Like, you know, they are just reminders of things that we can, you know, we have them all up here anyway.
KUT News: Do you think y’all’s relationship is stronger?
Kate Stein: It’s been rough.
Kevin Stein: Yeah.
Kate Stein: It’s been rough, but we’ll make it through. It’s getting better.
Kevin Stein: I think we’re just getting there, like, we just were able to take the weekend off and get out of town without the kid. We’ve just started to like –
Kate Stein: Allow ourselves to take the time.
Kevin Stein: To go out on a Saturday night and have, you know, Grandma watch the kid, you know, we’re just getting to that point where we can, you know, actually spend some time just together.
Kate Stein: We’ve been in survival mode, you know.
KUT News: Well, you guys look pretty strong.
Kevin Stein: Thank you.
Kate Stein: Thank you.
KUT News: You know, from the outside looking in. I mean –
Kate Stein: We will make it through. We’ve been through a lot together, you know, we’ve been together a long time so we know we’ll make it through. I think that’s, you know.
KUT News: If there was something, obviously, to change about the fires and what happened, if there was one thing, I mean, if the fire happened but you could change one thing about it, whether it was learning earlier or not having media around or being there at the time, what would it have been?
Kate Stein: I think being given the chance, for me at least, given the chance, ten minutes, to just go through the house and grab stuff. That means so much, like the video camera that had all the videos, you know, our wedding album, those kinds of things. The computers, you know, that carried all the data and everything. Because I wasn’t great about storing things in the cloud so I would highly recommend that people do that. I am now. That would be my one thing. But then again, I might forget something and then I would regret not grabbing that one thing, so I’ve played this over in my head a million times.
Kevin Stein: And we’ve talked about this a lot and it’s not very, you know – it doesn’t sound very philosophical or really deep, but, yeah, make sure your insurance, that you’re as fully insured as you can be for what you can afford. Make sure, once a year, take a video camera and go through the house and document all your stuff. Like I said, it’s not very deep, but it will save you hours and hours of energy.
KUT News: Well, no, I asked the same thing to Greg and he said I would tell everybody to clean your gutters.
Kevin Stein: Yep.
KUT News: Clean your gutters.
Kate Stein: So, yeah, I mean, on the new house we’re making some accommodations for being where we are, things that maybe weren’t available in ’94, but who knows.
KUT News: Yeah, he said clean your gutters. Keep your hose in the backyard, because if I see it – another fire -
Kate Stein: He was amazing. To run around, I mean, he saved our neighbors houses.
Kevin Stein: So, yeah, he was running around throwing all the hoses in the trees, over the fences and people can’t; that was what was so hard for our neighbors is they cannot wrap their head around why is my home here? And it devastated a lot of them because they couldn’t, you know, account for why they were spared.
KUT News: No I cried, I think I cried like two times, three times, while Greg was here. Greg is this macho man.
Kevin Stein: Yeah, he smoked a couple packs of cigarettes once, he’s got this deep voice.
KUT News: Yeah! I was just so amazed when I went in for the interview, how courageous he was. And, uh, I think that this really really showed character, true character, in a lot of folks.
Kate Stein: It definitely showed us what people are made of and how generous.
KUT News: People look out for you.
Kevin Stein: Yeah, I can be devastatingly cynical and it was, yeah, it, you know, I cried quite a bit just from pies and cakes and hugs and things for Natalie, just the things for Natalie.
Kate Stein: We had to re-donate stuff, I mean, it was ridiculous.
Kevin Stein: We were donating so much.
Kate Stein: People were so sweet.
KUT News: I think we covered a lot of stuff here. Was there anything that you guys didn’t, that we left out, that y’all wanted to say or?
Kevin Stein: Check your insurance. But no one, people are going to forget; people are going to forget and I think that, maybe, at some point in the future, Kate and I are going to be in a position to help people out the way that –
Kate Stein: Karen.
Kevin Stein: Karen in California was able to –
Kate Stein: She has already asked me to volunteer, which I will.
Kevin Stein: Yeah.
Kate Stein: When I’m back on my feet.
Kevin Stein: Kate’s going to be an amazing –
Kate Stein: I mean, unfortunately there is always a need for it, you know?
Kevin Stein: Yeah, you, as far as I’m concerned right now, if someone is going through the same thing, Kate is a professional advocate and she got it done.