INDIANAPOLIS, IN - As disasters go, it was not one of the largest, nor was it one of the ones that can be predicted with pinpoint accuracy. Most disasters are like that. This one struck as adoring fans gathered to see one of the hottest country music duo’s of our day, Sugarland.
We’ve all seen thunderstorms pop up with little warning of late. You are out mowing your lawn, working in your garden, or relaxing by your pool, when all of a sudden your umbrella whips up into the air and goes sailing into the middle of your neighbors tomato patch. There’s not much you can do about weather like this.
So it was on Saturday, August 13, as crowds took their seats or milled around in front of the stage at the Indiana State Fair, in anticipation of having a good time with their friends and listening to some great music.
You can see on the video’s how the wind picked up suddenly. It looks as if a huge dark cloud formed directly over that area of the fairgrounds.. Then, as if in a nightmare, the stage began to crumple and collapse in a matter of seconds. The people standing nearby had little time to react.
To the credit of the officials who managed the event, they had already announced that the concert was canceled, and called for people to seek shelter. You could see some of them leaving before the stage erupted into a cloud of dust. What happened next is the incredible reaction of dozens of people who raced toward the scene.
Some people are geared to run toward disasters like this one. Others are overcome with the ‘fight or flight’ response that is said to be encoded into all humans and animals. They ran away from danger, which is entirely understandable – that reflex is what keeps people alive in most cases.
But it’s the first group who caught the attention of the world, as once again, some of them rushed toward the fallen canopy to do whatever they could to help those who were tapped underneath tons of wood and metal.
You can see them reaching in to help people who were able to climb to safety over the fallen support grids. In only a matter of minutes they had formed a human chain to help lift the huge structural supports so that people could bring out the injured….and the dead.
No one knew at that point how many were beyond help, but the basic instincts of these people were automatically geared toward helping the survivors.
Just as we saw not long ago when people ventured out of their homes following the deadly tornado’s of the spring of 2011, these unsung hero’s lent their strength and compassion to those in a desperate situation. They didn’t form a committee to see who would go to the right or the left, they didn’t wait for the authorities to take over or for some elected official to give them their assignments. If they had, there would likely been more deaths and even more serious injuries. As it was, five souls (to date) lost their lives, and dozens were injured. Mother Nature once again showed her superiority over us mere mortals.
No one could have predicted this calamity. If so, there would never be any accidents. Certainly the people who put up the structure had done it hundreds of times – with no such outcome. People were in a convivial mood, they came to sing along with Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush, to be with their friends and have a good time. Instead, they witnessed a horrifying event that will be forever etched into their memories.
We’d all like to think, that faced with a similar situation, we would have run toward those in distress. In the split second when such decisions are made, that we would have been one of those who acted selflessly in the face of such a disaster, but until we are tested, we simply just don’t know…
Perhaps today, some of those who held that structure up with their bare hands being cut by the sharp metal edges of the grids, their aching arms and frantic efforts funneled by adrenalin, don’t yet fully understand the magnitude of what they did. How they unthinkingly and on automatic pilot did what had to be done. What they did was the stuff that makes them such a wonderful breed of people….they helped. They gave what they had to give at that moment, their strength of body and of heart. They didn’t look around to see if the television cameras were aimed in their direction, they didn’t expect to be on the front page of newspapers across the land, they just knew what needed to be done and they stepped up and did it, unquestioningly and immediately.
Here’s to you, those of you who proved your ability to conquer that urge to run the other way. Once again your actions have proven the indomitable nobility of the human spirit. We may never know your names, but you know who you are – and you are made of the right stuff. Thank God for people like you.