Lauren Hampton Farmer

Lauren Hampton Farmer, 31, holds her wedding dress that was found after tornadoes in Cookeville, Tennessee destroyed her house and spread out her belongings in early March. Her husband, Kory Farmer, is wearing his wedding blazer that was also found in the aftermath, alongside her UF diploma. She graduated from UF in 2010.

A tornado took nearly everything from Lauren Hampton Farmer — but it couldn’t take her UF diploma.

Farmer, 31, and her husband, Kory Farmer built their home in Cookeville, Tennessee, from the ground up, she said. But it was completely destroyed earlier this month by two tornadoes.

More than a dozen people were killed in Cookeville in early March from the two tornadoes, which had winds that went up to 175 mph, The Washington Post reported. 

During the tornadoes, she said her mouth filled with dirt and debris that held back her screams as walls collapsed around her. She and her husband held onto their two German Shepherds, Xena and Shadow, and Shadow was ripped from her hands. Shadow was retrieved hours after.

Farmer, her husband and their dogs are staying at a local cabin and are moving into a rental house next week.

Their home became an empty lot, and she said their personal items have since been found scattered more than 50 miles away. Her found belongings popped up in Facebook posts, including her wedding dress, but she said it was particularly special when someone found her UF diploma

“Our lives have been spread out all over the city,” she said.

Farmer graduated from UF in 2010. She was in Alpha Chi Omega and said three of her friends from the sorority sent essentials like shoes and clothes and donated to her GoFundMe page. The page had a goal of $5,000 but has raised nearly $18,000 as of Thursday evening.

“It was so nice that I built those connections over 10 years ago, and they have lasted until this day,” she said.

John Gillooly, a 55-year-old UF alumnus who currently lives in Palm Harbor, Florida, said he knew Farmer from when they worked together in Gainesville and saw her post on Facebook that her house was leveled. He said he reached out to help, also contacting The Alligator and people he knew who might be interested in her story. 

Gillooly said it was touching to see Farmer’s posts about her diploma, her wedding dress and the emotional stories of her neighbors.

“The stories that she’s been putting out, it’s just absolutely amazing,” he said.

Contact AJ Bafer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ajbafer.