Christian Chronicle

After tornado, a teen grieves her 4-year-old friend

‘You don’t ever think that’s the last time you’re going to see somebody,’ Izzy Stevens says.

By Bobby Ross Jr. | The Christian Chronicle

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — Just three nights before the unimaginable happened, Izzy Stevens, 17, laughed with her 4-year-old friend, Hattie Jo Collins, across a table at Pizza Hut.

Hattie, known for her colorful headbands adorned with flowers, rainbows and unicorns, was the daughter of youth minister Matt Collins and his wife, Macy.

“Hattie was the sweetest, sassiest, happiest, cutest little girl ever,” Izzy said of the blond bundle of energy — one of five children and 14 adults killed March 3 when an EF-4 tornado battered this community 80 miles east of Nashville. 

Related: Volunteer State: Christians rally to help

The two became close during Matt Collins’ time as youth minister for the Jefferson Avenue Church of Christ, Izzy’s home congregation for most of her life.

“She was never negative and always smiling,” the high school senior said of the spirited child, who loved to sing and recite Scriptures she had memorized. “She loved the kids in the youth group so much. She called us ‘Daddy’s big kids.’ We were her family away from home.”

That Friday night, Izzy’s family and a few others had met the Collinses — including Hattie’s baby sister, Lainey — for pizza in a nearby town. 

With the Collins family now serving at a different congregation — the Collegeside Church of Christ near Tennessee Tech University — the dinner offered a chance for everyone to catch up.  

This story appears in the April edition of The Christian Chronicle.

April 2020 front page

RELATED: Singing ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ in memory of 2-year-old Sawyer (reporting from Cookeville, Tenn.)

RELATED: On Sunday after tornadoes, sadness gives way to gladness (column from Mt. Juliet, Tenn.)

RELATED: Links to all of The Christian Chronicle’s in-depth coverage of the tornadoes

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