Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Section 4, Row 30, Seat 13, 14

Today is the 3rd anniversary of the Indiana State Fair stage collapse.  I was there.  It is by far one of the worst things I have ever witnessed in my life.  It took me 3 years to even go back to the State Fair.  For months afterwards, I wouldn't even drive by the Fairgrounds.  What should have been a fun evening of enjoying a Sugarland concert, turned tragic.

I would like to share my story of that night.  It is in honor of those who lost their lives and to all the people who helped assist in the search and rescue.  They are the real heroes.  I wrote this recap of what happened that night and the days after.  Every little detail I could remember.  I didn't edit it, so there will be run on sentences.  But these are my raw emotions after witnessing such a tragedy.


Section 4, Row 30, Seat 13, 14

It started out to be a normal day.  Sugarland concert night!!!  Finally.  Tickets had been bought back in the spring and we had been waiting a long time for this night.  Little did we know this would be a night that would change our lives forever.

Jenn (my friend and co-worker from the Radisson) and I left for the Indiana State Fair Grounds around 5pm.  It turned out to be a hotter day than we expected.  We arrived easily and safely and got a great parking spot in the midfield area.  Walking into the fair grounds we could hear Sara Bareilles doing a sound check.  We got some food, complained about the heat, and took a tractor ride around the fair.  Then we headed into the Grand Stand and took our seats with the other 12,000 fans.

Section 4, Row 30, Seat 13, 14 those were our seats.  We sat down and had some much needed girl talk.  I don’t think I ever shut up.  We enjoyed people watching.  We saw a young family in the ‘Sugar Pit’ that had a 2-3 year old playing in the dirt.  The mother was feeding a baby who was strapped to her chest.  Who brings young kids to a concert and takes them to the very crowded Sugar Pit?!  At least they had ear protection gear on. 

Jenn being the weather lady had her eye on the radar.  There was a storm up by Lafayette.  But still a beautiful night where we were.  I had a very nice lady sitting next to me.  Her name was Sue and she was there with her husband.  Her husband was taking pictures for everyone in front of us.  One lady made him take a picture 3 times because she said she looked old like her mother!  Sue was from Jasper County. 

Sara Bareilles came out and performed for maybe about an hour.  Sue didn’t know who Sara Bareilles was so I told her.  We all were still watching the radar.  We could see the storm quickly approaching.  It started to get dark to the northwest.  But we still had hopes the concert would happen. 

A man from Hank FM 97.1 came onstage and said they were going to try and get the concert going.  In case of an emergency we needed to head into the Pepsi Coliseum behind us.  They might need to stop the performance if it started to storm but would continue the concert after it passed.  We could see lightning in the distance.  I made the comment that is looked like the fair rides had stopped.

So we waited.  It was getting darker.  Some people started to get nervous and got up and left.  It wasn’t raining.  It was just dark.  Then the wind hit.  It just came out of nowhere.  The dirt started flying off the track.  And then the stage.  The canvas/tarp on top of the stage started to fly off.  The scaffolding on top of the stage started to sway.  And then it just fell.  It just fell over to the right.  That did not just happen.  There were people under there!!!  OH MY GOD!!  People’s blood curdling screams and complete chaos.  I felt like I was having an out of body experience.  This wasn’t happening.  There were stage lighting guys up there.  The VIP people in the Sugar Pit were under there.  I felt like I had swallowed a lot of dirt and it was in my eyes.  I had my arm around Jenn and my other hand was in the Sue’s.  I didn’t even realize she had taken my hand.  She was gasping it very tightly and had it against her chest next to her husband’s hand.  Sue looked at me with scared eyes saying her mother had been in the Coliseum when it exploded in 1963.  I didn’t even know what that was about but it didn’t sound good.  We all just sat there in utter shock kind of frozen.  The group around me decided it would be best for us just to stay put so we did not get trampled trying to get out.  We were crying and just sitting there in utter shock.  The rain started and the wind was so strong.  I was really scared that the grandstand would go next.  There was no way we would be able to get out alive.

The amazing thing was after the stage fell people started swarming and running to the stage to help.  People were trying to lift up the scaffolding.  They were tearing through the canvas trying to get through to people.  VIP chairs were being thrown in all directions so there was room for people to work.  I could see someone trying to do CPR on someone.  I was pretty sure they did not make it as when I left people were just standing over the body.  I could not believe what was happening.  It seemed like forever before medical personnel arrived but I am sure it wasn’t as long as it seemed to me.

After a few minutes of waiting we were told we needed to evacuate the grandstand.  It was raining at this point and we took our time down the stairs.  When we got outside the grandstand area all we could see was emergency personnel everywhere.  A fire truck had taken out the hotdog/lemonade stand I had gotten my lemonade from earlier.  We walked through the craziness and made our way inside a safe building where the horses were.  We stayed there for about a half hour.  The most frustrating thing was we had absolutely no cell service.  All we wanted to do is tell our loved ones we were OK.  But there was no getting through.  We saw the young mother from the Sugar Pit safely inside with her young kids but no sign of her husband.  We talked to a lady who had been in the second row and her boyfriend had left her to run and go help people because he was a paramedic.  Another lady had lost her grandchild.  Little kids with their parents who looked so scared.  People were crying and just had this shocked look on their faces.  Over the loud speaker we could hear people’s names being called.  People had been separated from their loved ones.

We were told we could leave.  We slowing walked to the car and just kind of stunned of what had happened.  We could see medical personnel everywhere.  Chaos.  We walked by the stage area in complete shock.  It was ruined.

Finally made it safely to the car and slowly we crept out of the fairgrounds in utter disbelief.  I talked to my Mom, my boss, the Shorts, and the Ploughes.  I had never been so happy to be home in my life.  Jenn made it home safe and sound, too.

I'm in complete shock and cannot stop watching the news.  This story is breaking news on MSN and #1 trend on Yahoo.  Just unbelievable.  4 people are dead and over 40 injured.  Hospitals are very crowded tonight.  Declared a level 1 emergency by Homeland Security.  It is believed 70mph winds did this damage.  8:40pm – announcement of storm.  8:50pm stage scaffolding went down.  Was not the storm that knocked down the stage.  It was the wind.  9:15pm storm hit.  Fair closed Sunday.

Didn’t sleep very well at all last night.  Had nightmares about what happened.  Can’t remember exactly what happened in my dreams but things were falling over.  Here are the facts.

5 are reported dead.  One being someone who was up in the scaffolding doing the lighting for the concert
43 injured
State fair is closed

8:40pm  Warned about what to do when approaching storm hit
8:45pm  High winds clocked in Plainfield, IN
8:49pm  Winds of 70mph at the Speedway (7 miles from the Fairgrounds)
8:50pm  At the fairgrounds the winds hit the stage and it collapses
9:15pm  Actual storm hits
No cell service

It was confirmed 7 dead and several suffering with life long injuries.  The tragedy has been ripped apart over and over again by the media.  Conclusion the rigging was not stable.  Many claims were made against Sugarland who had not taken the stage yet.  Everyone is trying to place the blame on each other.

‘There’s a comfort, there’s a healing.  High above the pain and sorrow.  Won’t you stand up and use your voice? ~Sugarland   

Tired of reliving the concert tragic over and over with the media.  Fact is I was there.  Fact is it was a freak accident.  Fact is Sugarland is NOT to blame.

During Sara Bareilles performance

Me and Jenn during happier times at the fair.

The storm approaching

A memorial outside the Grandstand at the Indiana State Fair.  (Picture taken 8-12-14)

There has not been a concert in the Grandstands since that night.  The concerts are now held inside at the Coliseum.

Check back tomorrow.  I will share Sugarland's tribute to those who lost their lives and how they honored their fans.


Post a Comment