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'So overwhelming' | Missouri family deals with tragedy after girl killed, sister and mother injured in tornado

"I prayed to Jesus for him to take care of me and that tornado spit me out into the mud," a 7-year-old reportedly told doctors.

CARUTHERSVILLE, Mo. — An extended Missouri family is grieving, after a tornado ripped through their home this weekend, claiming a young life and changed the lives of the survivors forever.

Loved ones said the Friday night storm in Caruthersville, Missouri - about 75 miles north of Memphis - killed nine-year-old Annistyn Rackley and put the mother, Meghan Rackley, in a coma.

Le Bonheur Children's Hospital doctors are now treating Annistyn's younger sister, 7-year-old Ava, with surgery scheduled Wednesday to treat broken vertebrae in her back.

Tuesday morning, ABC24 Memphis spoke with the children's father, Trey Rackley.

"There was a lot of loud, loud noises and banging," Rackley recalled on what he felt and heard Friday night, minutes before the tornado made a direct hit on their home.

Credit: AP
In this Dec. 10, 2021, photo provided by Sandra Hooker, from left, Avalinn Rackley, 7, Alanna Rackley, 3, and Annistyn Rackley, 9, pose for a picture in a bathroom in their home near Caruthersville, Missouri. Annistyn, a third-grader who loved swimming, dancing and cheerleading, was among dozens of people who died because of the severe storm on Friday, Dec. 10. A tornado hit her home and splintered it less than a week after the family had moved in, and, according to the relative who received the photo of the girl in the bathtub, it carried family members dozens of yards before dropping them in a muddy field. (Meghan Rackley/Courtesy of Sandra Hooker via AP)

"I don't know if I was flying but to me if felt more like I was getting dragged," Rackley said.

As the tornado threw him outside, Rackley said he held on to his youngest daughter - 3-year-old Lani - and braced for impact.

"Where I felt like I was losing the grip on her and I let my phone go and I grabbed her and pulled her back in, and next thing I know we were dropped in a field," Rackley said.

Credit: Sandra Hooker
Rackley home before the tornado
Credit: Sandra Hooker
Rackley home after the tornado

Trey and his youngest daughter survived, but the impact left his wife Meghan in a coma in a Missouri hospital, his 7-year-old daughter in a Memphis hospital, and claimed the life of his oldest daughter, Annistyn.

Credit: Sandra Hooker
Aniston, Ava, & Lani Rackley

"She was just that giving, caring young girl and all of that has been robbed from her," Sandra Hooker, Annisytn's great aunt, told ABC24 Memphis Tuesday afternoon.

Hooker reflected on the 9-year-old's perseverance in her young life, following a diagnosis of a rare live disease.

"In spite of everything, she was just always so brave, just you would never know, she was always smiling. She loved life and loved people," Hooker added.

Hooker said she and others are relying on their faith, especially after hearing what the surviving middle daughter Ava told doctors.

"She said that she knew she was flying around the tornado and she said 'I prayed to Jesus for him to take care of me' and that tornado spit me out into the mud," Hooker said.

The family member is grateful for her community's emotional and financial support to date, as they pray the mother and elementary school teacher pulls through.

"We are believing for a miracle, so we are going to say that we are optimistic that she will pull through. But whatever happens we know that God's will will be done," Hooker added.

Credit: Sandra Hooker
Aniston, Meghan, Ava Rackley

The Caruthersville community held a service Sunday to honor Annistyn Rackley and keep her family in their thoughts.

Family and friends set up a donation drive to assist the Rackleys with medical expenses and funds to help them find a new home. If you are interested in helping, CLICK HERE

Credit: Sandra Hooker
Lani, Ava, and Anniston Rackley

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