Father of 4-Year-Old Girl Killed in Nashville Tornado Speaks Out

Matt Collins' 4-year-old daughter Hattie was one of the 24 victims of the tornado that hit the Nashville, Tennessee area on Tuesday. Collins, a youth minister in Putnam County, shared a heartbreaking post on Facebook, writing about Hattie's last moments. Collins' family and another tornado victim, 67-year-old Patricia Lane, were members of the Collegeside Church of Christ in Cookeville.

In his emotional Facebook post, Collins recalled how he and wife Macy snapped into action to protect Hattie and their infant daughter Lacy.

"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 wrote. "Early on Tuesday morning March 3, Hattie had wound up in our bed once again. She was asleep between Macy and I when Macy's phone went off alerting us of a tornado warning in Putnam County. She immediately woke me up, where I quickly turned the TV on."

"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," Collins continued. "Macy grabbed Lainey, I had Hattie, and we hit the floor. The sound around us was unlike anything I have ever heard. Deafening silence."

When the tornado hit, the couple and their children hit the ground.

"Everything was collapsing and going up around us. I was yelling as loud as I could," he wrote. "I don't remember what I said or even if what I said were words at all, but my yells were pleads for my girls to hang on. The four of us were relocated by the storm to somewhere around our front porch, we think. We were in the dirt, in the crawl space, but together."

Collins wrote he and Macy "blacked out" at that time. Their neighbors, Kory and Lauren Farmer, lost their house, but they escaped and helped the Collins family after they heard Collins' screams.

Kory "had a light and was able to locate the four of us. Macy was holding Lainey," Collins wrote. "I was holding Hattie. We had never let go. Kory took the girls from our arms because he could see all 4 of us were injured. More neighbors, Luke and Amy Carty, had been able to escape and get to Luke's truck. Luke and Amy had Jill Mynatt and her family in the truck with them. Kory handed Hattie to Jill and Lainey to Amy. My girls never touched the ground."

Others did the best they could to help the family, with one group broke a door down to make a stretcher for Macy.

"Every interaction we had that night was with God's people," Collins wrote. "The church saved our life. I'm confident there are more names that I could have added that I do not remember. We are living the the tension of devastation and love. Words do not do justice for how we feel for Hattie. The pain is unbearable at times, and present all the time. We have also been overwhelmed with love and support from all over. We thank you for your prayers — we have seen God this week in the lives of so many. God worked through his people Tuesday morning — Kory, Lauren, Luke, Amy, Jill and others — and we were recipients of their love."

At the end of his post, Collins said Hattie loved talking instead of sleeping. She once told her mother, "Mommy, I can see Jesus and he is wearing all white."

"Hattie could see more clearly than the rest of us," Collins concluded his post. "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."

One of Collins' friends launched a GoFundMe fundraiser to help the Collins family. In just five days, more than $159,000 has been raised.

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Putnam County was among the hardest-hit areas on Tuesday. Eighteen of the 24 victims from the tornado lived in the county, east of Nashville.

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