“My girls never touched the ground.”

By Rebecca Angel Baer
March 11, 2020
Collins Family
Credit: Laura Jenkins

Middle Tennessee is still picking up the pieces and mourning those lost after a rash of deadly tornadoes tore through Nashville and the surrounding counties in the middle of the night last week. The death toll is currently 25 and 18 of those lost souls were citizens of Cookeville, Tennessee, in Putnam County. This small, close-knit community is hurting. They are grieving this immense amount of loss at once, many of their schools are destroyed, and so many residents are now without a home. The Collins family is one of these families grappling with an unbearable grief over the death of 4-year-old, Hattie. She is one of five children who died due to the horrific tornado that ripped people from their beds just after midnight on Tuesday, March 3. Hattie’s dad penned a devastatingly, heartbreaking post describing what happened to him and his family the night they lost their precious little girl.

In the post he eloquently recounts the events of that night, and then what he was later told happened in the hours after the storm—as he does not remember them. While he describes the painful last moments they had as a family of four, the emotional letter also shows how his entire community has rallied around this family. They are not alone.

He began with, “Hattie loves to be held. Ever since she was born, Hattie has loved being held. In 4.5 years, she has slept with Macy and I nearly every single night — close. She wants to feel you.”

Collins then described the moment the jarring sound of the emergency alert went off on his wife Macy’s phone and jolted them awake and into action. “We immediately grabbed Hattie out of the bed and begin running as fast as possible towards Lainey’s room to grab her out of the crib. Macy grabbed Lainey, I had Hattie, and we hit the floor. The sound around us was unlike anything I have ever heard. Deafening silence,” he wrote.

The tornado hit their home as soon as they got the girls to the floor. Collins described walls collapsing and items swirling up around them. The storm carried them to the porch he thinks, he says he felt dirt, but they were together. He then said this is when both he and Macy must have blacked out because he only knows what happens from here on because friends who showed up to help told him. He recounts how there was a chain of neighbors and friends who got all four of them out of the rubble that was once their home, and that when they were found, he was still holding Hattie and Macy had their other daughter Lainey. The friends took the girls from their parents’ protective embraces to the medical professionals, and as Collins recounted, “My girls never touched the ground.”

Collins then reveals that it was in this human rescue chain that friend Luke carried Hattie into the hospital, and she was already gone. “Luke was holding Hattie. She had already passed. Luke held her though. Hattie loves to be held. My girls never touched the ground.” You can read more of the harrowing account here in his post:

The Collins family are people of faith, members of Collegeside Church of Christ, and it’s clear that this grieving father is leaning not only on his congregation but also that faith to see him through this unimaginable time. Collins concluded his harrowing account with something that happened earlier in the evening before they knew that everything was about to change forever.

“Every night before bed, Macy would read Hattie a story. Monday night, after they finished reading, Hattie looked up at Macy as she often does after story time. Hattie would rather talk than sleep. She told her, “Mommy, I can see Jesus and he is wearing all white.”

Hattie could see more clearly than the rest of us. Before we knew Jesus was going to hold her that night, she did. We do not believe the Lord took our girl from us. We believe he is holding our girl for us. And Hattie loves to be held.”

WATCH: Deadly Tornadoes Strike Middle Tennessee Communities Overnight: Here’s How You Can Help

If you would like to help the Collins family, a GoFundMe has been established in their name. You can find it here. We send our deepest condolences to the Collins family as well as all who have lost a loved one from these storms.