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Congregation mourns losing 4-year-old, church member one year after EF-4 tornado

Hensley Drive
Posted at 11:25 AM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 23:12:09-05

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A congregation is taking steps to heal after losing two members when an EF-4 tornado ripped through their community one year ago.

"We don’t ever move on, but we move forward," said John Nichols, a teaching minister in Cookeville at Collegeside Church of Christ

In the Hensley Drive area, the tornado tore through homes and shattered lives. The neighborhood once filled with debris is now filled with empty lots. "What happened a year ago won’t have the last word," Nichols said. "As time goes on rebuilding will happen. We believe that to be true."

Nichols said it was heartbreaking when their congregation lost 4-year-old Hattie Collins, who was ripped away from loved ones during the storm. She leaves behind her mom Macy, sister Lainey, and her father Matt, who works at the church.

The Collins Family
The Collins Family

Another member, Pat Lane, died as a result of the tornado too.

Pat Lane
Pat Lane

"We will never move on from the people that we lost. We’ll never move on from the damage and the destruction that was caused early morning a year ago, but in faith, we do move forward," Nichols said.

Nichols said the grieving process was interrupted by COVID-19, which made it hard to mourn as a church family. "Somebody said that to lament is an unresolved note in music, it just kind of hangs out there, and we don’t know what to do with it, and in some ways, that’s how we feel as a church. We wish it was different. We would give anything for it to be different,” Nichols said.

Looking back, the church community will remember the ones who were lost, while clinging to the notion that one day they'll be together again. "We believe he’s with us every step," Nichols said. "As we take those one step at a time."

On Wednesday the Collegeside Church of Christ is inviting the public to a vigil at 6:30 p.m. It will be streamed online too. "We feel two things at once, we feel a tremendous amount of pain and sorrow and loss, but we also feel a tremendous amount of hope," Nichols said.