Couple with newborn overwhelmed by generosity after tornado leveled home
By Janet Lundquist firstname.lastname@example.org November 28, 2013 9:26PM
Mari and Jason Eaton, of Diamond, spend time with their newborn daughter Thursday at Mari's parents' house in Joliet. | Janet Lundquist/Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 30, 2013 12:16PM
The Eaton family used to think they knew what it meant to be thankful.
But their definition of gratitude sharpened last week after the young couple and their newborn daughter weathered a tornado that destroyed their house in Diamond.
Jason and Mari Eaton brought their daughter, born Nov. 14, home from the hospital the day before a tornado swept through their town.
“I think it’s definitely made us stronger,” Mari said Thursday. The family, who have been staying with Jason’s family in Minooka, spent Thanksgiving with Mari’s family in Joliet.
“This whole experience has made this Thanksgiving have a whole new meaning,” Mari said. The Nov. 17 tornado ravaged parts of Diamond and Coal City, damaging at least 225 houses, authorities said.
In the hours after the storm, Jason picked through the broken glass and debris strewn through their home looking for anything salvageable.
The baby’s room, which was lovingly decorated and filled with gifts and baby necessities for the newborn’s arrival, was trashed.
A diamond necklace Jason gave Mari during their first Christmas together was lost.
Soon, however, things took a positive turn.
Donations came pouring in for tornado victims. Volunteers flooded the area, cleaning up debris, sorting donations and delivering coffee and sandwiches to people in the hardest-hit area.
Complete strangers spent hundreds of dollars on baby items for tiny Ariana, who picked up the nickname “Tornado Baby.”
“Somebody said, ‘Can I take a picture of the Tornado Baby? She is the light in all this darkness,’ ” Mari said.
The words brought her to tears, she said.
Mari’s mother, Rosalinda Cruz, said she is amazed by the generosity they have seen.
“It’s a good Thanksgiving,” Cruz said. “I truly cannot stress enough how grateful we are for the people who are supporting them.”
Jason and Mari said words cannot express the gratitude they feel this Thanksgiving.
“There’s so much stuff we’ve received. It just doesn’t feel like we deserve it,” Jason said. “There were a lot of other families affected, and we hope they’re getting the same amount of support.”
The couple also thanked their families, who have taken care of Ariana and helped them clean up the mess the tornado made.
Mari’s sister, Cecilia Cruz, plucked the hospital record with Ariana’s birth information and tiny footprints from the mess in the baby’s room, a find that made Mari melt.
“We could have been depressed about this, but with everyone being so supportive, it’s helped me mentally and emotionally,” Mari said.
The couple plan to rebuild their house and move back to Diamond, hopefully by summer.
“After this, I really can’t see myself living anywhere else,” Mari said.