WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Wednesday’s intense storms in Williamson County took the life of a Belmont law student, Laurel Flaherty.

Those who knew the Massachusetts native, who was very involved in the equestrian community, said there’s no doubt she would have changed the world for the better.

According to close family friend Phyllis Cervelli — who coached Flaherty at Holly Hill Show Stable — the 22-year-old had just checked on her horse, La TeeDah, and was heading home when the intense storm hit. Flaherty was on the phone with her mother just moments before the tragedy.

“Her phone alert went off to shelter in place and she says, ‘I don’t know where to go, there’s nowhere to go right here. What do I do?'” Cervelli said. “And her mom hung up because she says, ‘I want you to concentrate on your driving and just get home safe. Just tell me when you get home safe.'”

Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) said Flaherty was driving on Old Natchez Trace in Williamson County on Wednesday, Oct. 12 when a large tree fell on top of her SUV, killing her.

Flaherty moved to Tennessee to attend Belmont University. Originally drawn there for music, she changed her major to study law.

“I’ve never met anybody in my whole life that was so determined to make sure everybody had the same equal rights,” Cervelli said.

The family friend shared memory after memory of Flaherty, who had the ability to captivate crowds with her talent and her special connection to horses. Flaherty even earned sportsmanship awards for her character.

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“It’s the Laurel Flaherty’s of the world that make it worthwhile,” Cervelli said, “because they love their horses as much as they love riding their horses, and that’s what’s more special to me than anything.”

Only 5-foot 1-inch tall, the mighty rider had a presence that stretched far beyond her stature. Flaherty was also thrilled to call Middle Tennessee home.

“Oh, she loved it there. Yeah, she absolutely loved it. I was so happy for her,” Cervelli said with a huge smile.

Flaherty showed her dedication to the area by volunteering more than 100 hours to the nonprofit Saddle Up! The organization provides therapeutic experiences with horses to children and young adults with disabilities.

The nonprofit’s executive director, Audrey Kidd, lovingly called Flaherty a true horse girl.

“That really sums Laurel up. She took her own connection with horses and really helped that become manifested in real for the children that she worked with here as well,” Kidd recalled. “She had a big heart in a small frame. Whether it was stable work, handling horses, or being in lessons with our kids, she was really a wonderful volunteer for us. Everyone loved, loved, loved working with her.”

Cervelli’s only regret is that more of Nashville didn’t get the chance to love Flaherty the way those who knew her did.

“It’s really a tragedy for all of us. She was going to change the world,” Cervelli said.

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Belmont University President Dr. Greg Jones sent News 2 the following statement:

“Laurel Flaherty graduated from Belmont in May with her Bachelor of Social Work and started her first year as a Belmont Law student this fall. We are all devastated by today’s news, and we have reached out to her family, faculty and classmates to offer our support and deepest condolences. In addition, support services and resources are being made available for our campus community. I am again reminded of Psalm 24:18: ‘The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.’ Our prayers today are with Laurel’s family and all who knew and loved her.”

A line of severe storms battered areas of Middle Tennessee with Fairview being one of the areas receiving the brunt of it. Several reports of damage, downed trees, powerlines, were made from that area.