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A memorial set up under the grandstand at the Indiana State Fair to honor the tragic loss Saturday.

CNHI News Service
Special to the Herald

Thirty-six hours after she rushed toward victims trapped under a collapsed stage at the Indiana State Fair, nurse Joy Travis returned to the fairgrounds to say a prayer.

She was having difficulty blocking the images that kept flooding her mind: They began with ominously dark clouds in the distance, flashes of lightning, and a sudden and massive burst of gravel-filled wind that made the stage in front of her seem to swoon.

What followed still seemed like a nightmare to the Plainfield nurse who’d been sitting in the grandstands with more than 12,000 other Sugarland fans Saturday night.

The stage’s lights, rigging and scaffolding toppled forward, crashing down on scores of people. By the time Travis could push her way forward, through a panicking crowd, she could see one man was already dead and many more wounded. The death toll would soon climb to five, with more than four dozen people transported to area hospitals.

What still clung to Travis, after an emotional memorial service at the fairgrounds, was the fear on the faces of the injured and the shouts of police officers clearing a path for makeshift gurneys on which the wounded were being rushed to waiting ambulances.

“They kept shouting, ‘make a hole, make a hole, make a hole,’” Travis said.

During Monday’s service, Gov. Mitch Daniels praised those who rushed to help the injured.

“There was a hero every 10 feet on Saturday night," Daniels said.

At the memorial service, Daniels said the time for “laying blame” would come later. The Indiana State Police and the state’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration are investigating the accident; a report on their findings may be weeks away.

There were other family and friends of victims at the service, but many who attended were like Travis: They didn’t know the people who were killed but were feeling a deep sense of grief.

“There’s a big sense of family here,” said Misty Price, a concession stand worker. “I keep thinking, ‘maybe I met one of the people who died. Maybe I talked to them that night.’”

After closing Sunday, the state fair reopened Monday after the service, but the crowds were down.

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