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State

Couple grateful for newborn's safety in Illinois storm

DIAMOND – A central Illinois couple whose house was destroyed by a tornado one day after they brought their newborn daughter home say they’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers.

Jason and Mari Eaton of Diamond told WLS-TV and the (Joliet) Herald-News they brought their 2-day-old daughter, Ariana, home from the hospital on Nov. 16.

The next day, severe weather ripped through Illinois. The storms damaged at least 225 houses in Diamond and nearby Coal City, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago.

The Eatons waited out the storm at a relative’s house, where Ariana slept through the noise.

“It was scary. I was afraid we wouldn’t be here,” Mari Eaton said.

When they returned to their home, they found piles of debris and rubble. The newly decorated baby’s room – with all of her gifts and necessities – was trashed.

But as word of what happened spread, strangers started calling and offering to help. Volunteers showed up with coffee and food. People they didn’t know began sending money and gifts for Ariana, who’s come to be known as “Tornado Baby.”

“Somebody said, ‘Can I take a picture of the Tornado Baby? She is the light in all this darkness,’ ” Mari Eaton said.

The Eatons said they’re grateful their baby is safe. They also said the experience has made their family stronger and that they plan to rebuild. They’re hoping to be able to move back to Diamond by summer.

“After this, I really can’t see myself living anywhere else,” Mari Eaton said.

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