Community holds memorial for victims of Indiana State Fair tragedy

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Hundreds of people gathered Monday morning to honor the victims of Saturday night’s tragedy at the Indiana State Fair.

Five individuals lost their lives, after strong storms caused the stage at the Indiana State Fair to collapse.  Several others who were injured are still recovering in Indianapolis hospitals.

Members of the community cried as they sat surrounded by flags flying half-staffed.

The State Fair’s commission president opened the ceremony, hoping the memorial would bring some comfort to those affected by Saturday’s events.

“Typically when we meet on these grounds it is with joy and happiness on our minds, but today we are saddened by the loss and injury of loved ones,” said President Steve Simmerman.

Governor Mitch Daniels urged the community to remain strong in a way they are known for.  He thanked those that helped pull others out of the wreckage, saying there was a “hero every ten feet Saturday night.”

“My heart is full for those people who, some from duty but some from their love and personal bravery, acted in courageous ways that acted to make sure it wasn’t worse than it was,” said Gov. Daniels.

Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman also spoke highly of those who assisted others and said it was a “moment in Hoosier history that will be seen as a silver lining.”

Those remembered included: Tammy Vandam, 42, Wanatah, Ind.; Glenn Goodrich, 49, Indianapolis, Ind.; Alina Bigjohny, 23,Fort Wayne, Ind.; Christina Santiago, 29,Chicago, Ill.; and, Nathan Byrd, 51, Indianapolis, Ind.

Junie Byrd’s son, Nathan, was working as a spotlight operator at the concert.

“I’ll never get over it. It will grieve me till my dying day, but we have to go on and look at the Lord for strength.”

Kayla Sollers and Annie Harrell were friends with Alina Bigjohny. Their thoughts are also with friend Jenny Haskell who was injured.

“I know it’s difficult and I know it’s gonna take time since I have the nightmare of the actual stage collapsing to follow it, but I know that Alina would want us to still smile and rejoice,” said Kayla Sollers.

Both say they had to be at the ceremony to support their friends and their families.

“When they came out with flowers for each person- that really meant a lot,” said Annie Harrell. “I know Alina would want us to move on. I don’t think she would even want us to mourn. She would want us to just celebrate her and that’s what I plan on doing.”

Many said the service showed the solidarity and true heart of Hoosiers.

“For all those who grieve this morning and all those who have lost in one way or another from the event of the other day,” said Daniels, “our hearts are with you in a way Hoosiers are known for.”