Monday, August 15, 2011

Tragedy at the Indiana State Fair

You can also read this post over at The Bluevine Collective

Saturday’s tragedy at the Indiana State Fair has given me pause. Like so many people across the country, my heart goes out to the families of those who died when the stage collapsed at the fairgrounds this weekend. One thing I didn’t expect — how difficult it is to hear the news from across the country.

On Saturday night, I spotted tweets from fellow Blueviner Matt Peyton. The tweets came in rapid succession – something about “victims sent to Wishard and Methodist hospitals.” Immediately, I knew something was wrong back in Indiana.

Later that evening, I watched live web coverage from one of Indianapolis’ TV stations. The journalist in me searched for details everywhere, including my social networks (which has a strong Indiana influence due to my four years at Butler University). Several college classmates posted statuses alerting everyone they were safe.

DC is not a typical lens from which to learn about current events. Politicos and other newsmakers “inside the beltway” saturate the media market. But since The Washington Post is also a national newspaper, there’s still some room to read headlines from beyond the capital. It pained me to see this piece of news treated like just a drop in the bucket of current events. Just another headline, another news brief – sometimes contained to a single sentence – and eventually archived.

I remember the thrill of seeing the Post cover Butler’s riveting basketball season this year. In DC, its always a conversation starter – a way to feel proud of my Midwestern roots even though I’m far away (“Yes, that MY school on the front of the sports section!”). But in today’s Sunday edition, I dreaded what I would find. I flipped to “national digest” and found the horrific photo of the stage collapse, and a 1-sentence caption.

The majority of DC’s population is transient and young. Conversations here always begin with “What do you do?” and eventually follow with, “Where are you from?” As I like to tell people about the DC crowd, “everyone is from everywhere.” In that sense, roots take on significance in DC because its one of the easiest ways to differentiate people one twenty-something from another.

The tragedy was another reminder that we are not guaranteed tomorrow.  A reminder of the importance of roots. Cities and towns help remind you of who you are, and how you’ve changed. I like to think Midwestern roots are stronger than most geographic ties.

Most impressive was the video footage of the Hoosiers who ran to lift the stage rigging off the trapped victims. Gov. Daniels said they “ran to the trouble, not from the trouble. That’s the character that we associate with our state.”

I may be in DC, but I’m proud to call myself a pseudo-Hoosier.