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Dad who lost daughter in Tennessee tornado pens emotional post about her death

Hattie Collins, 4, died when tornadoes hit Putnam County, near Nashville, last week.
People sift through debris at a subdivision in Cookeville, Tenn., Wednesday, March 4, 2020, after a tornado went through the area Tuesday. Troy Stolt / Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP
/ Source: TODAY

A father from Putnam County, Tennessee, who lost his daughter during last week's devastating tornadoes, wrote an emotional and heartbreaking post about her loss.

Matt Collins wrote on Facebook that he was holding his 4-year-old daughter Hattie all night long during the tornado, which destroyed the family's home.

"Ever since she was born, Hattie has loved being held," wrote Collins. "In 4.5 years, she has slept with Macy and I every single night — close. She wants to feel you."

According to Collins, Hattie was already sleeping between him and his wife when they were alerted to a tornado warning in the area. Collins wrote that he grabbed Hattie and their other daughter, Lainey, to take shelter.

"Macy grabbed Lainey, I had Hattie, and we hit the floor," he wrote. "The sound around us was unlike anything I have ever heard. Deafening silence. As soon as we hit the ground with the girls, the tornado hit. Everything was collapsing and going up around us. I was yelling as loud as I could. 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."

Collins said that the family was "relocated by the storm" to their yard.

"We were in the dirt, in the crawl space, but together," he wrote. He said that after that moment, he and his wife both "blacked out" and have no memories until they woke up at a home across the street, which was still standing.

Collins wrote that he and his family were rescued by neighbors Kory and Lauren Farmer, who also lost their home in the tornado.

"Soon after the storm passed, Kory could hear my screams," Collins wrote. "He had a light and was able to locate the four of us. Macy was holding Lainey. I was holding Hattie. We had never let go."

Collins said that the Farmer family, along with other neighbors, helped his family to a car so they could get help.

"Kory handed Hattie to Jill (Mynatt) and Lainey to Amy (Carty)," said Collins, referencing other neighbors. "My girls never touched the ground."

The group had hoped to make it to a local church, but was unable to. Instead, they stopped at another home.

"When an ambulance was able to locate the group... Luke (Carty) was holding Hattie," Collins said. "She had already passed. Luke held her though. Hattie loves to be held."

Hattie was one of five young children to die during the tornadoes. There were 24 people killed overall, and more than 500 homes and businesses in the area were damaged or destroyed, including the Collins' home.

Collins finished his post explaining how their neighbors and local church came together to save each other, and are continuing to help each other in the aftermath of the storm.

"Every interaction we had that night was with God's people," Collins wrote. "The church saved our lives. I'm confident there are more names I could have added that I do not remember. We are living the tension of devastation of 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 been overwhelmed with love and support from all over."

"Before we knew Jesus was going to hold her that night, she did," Collins continued. "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."

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