We all distill events like the one that transpired at the State Fairgrounds differently. Those in attendance last Saturday night who witnessed the collapse of an aluminum stage rig into a crowd of people seemed to have three different reactions: dumbfounded bewilderment, hysteria, or a focused attempt to pitch in. None of these reactions are wrong or right - we can’t judge a single person for the way they processed what they were seeing.
Those citizens whose psychological makeup did allow them to run toward the wreckage and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the first responders who are trained how to process disaster can rightfully be referred to as ‘heroes’. The enduring image I will take away from the event is a photograph that was shot by my friend and colleague Ernie Mills. Ernie’s lens captured a man climbing over the fence that separates the grandstand from the track. It’s high, and the man in the photo doesn’t look like much of a fitness nut, but he’s risking life and limb just to get over the barrier and run toward the scene of the disaster. He’s a man on a mission; he’s going to arrive to help as quickly as his legs will let him.
This gent and countless nameless others may never be properly and publicly recognized as individuals for what they did Saturday night. They should be, but their heroism is only one kind of many. I’d like to mention those other heroes whose acts should probably also be recognized.
There are countless ER doctors, nurses, and personnel who had to treat a sudden influx of emergency patients.
There are cops and firefighters who reunited families and made sure those who could left the fairgrounds without further injury.
There are probably dozens, maybe hundreds of people who comforted those who’d just seen a loved one grievously injured or reassured a child who’d seen the unthinkable.
There are doctors and psychologists and therapists who will be treating those who were either mentally or psychologically wounded by the disaster for a very long time.
And there are those who will have to carry on – those who will have to care for someone injured for life, those who will have to carry on without a loved one or a friend. All of these actions are heroic. Sometimes just getting out of bed after seeing an event such as this could be considered an act of extraordinary courage. The least that the rest of us can do is to keep all of those heroes in our thoughts.