Family reflects on Indiana State Fair stage collapse 10 years after losing loved one


INDIANAPOLIS – On August 13, 2011, the stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair, killing seven people and injuring 58 more.

One person who died was 23-year-old Alina BigJohny.

“Because she was in college and she just graduated, sometimes it feels like she still in college,” said Alina’s older sister Christy.

Christy said the two were best friends and last spoke on the phone about 15 minutes before the stage came down. She recalled that Alina was excited to see Sugarland perform at the fair.

But shortly after their phone call, the storm moved in, the crowd was not evacuated and the stage came down.

“Everybody was trying to call her, so I called my mom and I’m like, ‘Mom, I’m going to Indy,’ and my dad and mom were like, ‘Just calm down,’ and I’m like, ‘No, something’s not right,’” Alina said. “One thing about Alina, she would have found a phone if she was ok.”

An officer finally answered Alina’s phone and told the family to come to the fairgrounds.

“When I hung up at that time, I knew, I just knew,” Christy said.

Her instinct was right; Alina was gone.

Christy said the community helped the family get through those early days.

“It was personalized cards, personalized letters explaining how she touched them somehow,” Christy said.

Now, 10 years later, she said the pain never really goes away.

“You kind of just get used to it, it’s a new normal. You have all this love for this person and you can’t give it to them and it kind of just sits there,” Christy said. “I can hear her in the back of my head, ‘Get up, you’re not doing this to my nephew, you’re not about to be sad.’”

Those who were lost on August 13, 2011: Alina BigJohny, Jennifer Haskell, Christiana Sanitago, Tammy VanDam, Nathan Byrd, Glenn Goodrich, Meagan Toothman.

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