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Tragedy At The Indiana State Fair Prompts Family Discussions At Home

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For those of us who live in the Midwest, State Fairs present a unique, family tradition that coastal dwellers can’t always understand. Its not just livestock and deep-fried butter, State Fairs focus on providing wholesome entertainment for families in the intense heat of summer. They have petting zoos, shopping and plenty of family-friendly performances.

This family atmosphere added another layer of sadness as the Indiana State Fair reopened and mourned the loss of five Indiana residents during a tragic accident this weekend. Severe weather brought down the lights and rigging on the crowd minutes before a Sugarland performance. Now, inquiries will determine whether the stage manufacturers or the fair itself were negligent in protecting the concert-goers. But whatever the investigation turns up, my entire state will grieve for the citizens we lost and their families.

When tragedy strikes so close to home, its hard to shield your children from the stories. One of the young people who passed away was from my city and our local news has been understandably covering the sad story in detail. Even if my little one doesn’t catch the news, the mood at the State Fair is definitely somber. Even children who don’t understand the magnitude of the accident pick up on the feeling of sadness surrounding what’s normally a happy affair.

While its up to individual families to determine the level of detail they share with their children, these tragedies present a challenge in communication for everyone. Personally, my daughter still doesn’t understand the meaning of death. Hearing that someone died simply can’t effect her because she doesn’t realize that people can go away and not come back. But the pictures and video are terrifying, whether you understand their outcome or not. Seeing that roof come down was a haunting vision and one that I still can’t find words to explain to my little one.

For now, I’ll just have to use the words of our governor, Mitch Daniels.

“For all those who grieve this morning and all those who have lost, in one way or another, so much … our hearts are with you in a way that Hoosiers are known for. My heart is full for those people who, some from duty but many simply from their love and personal bravery, acted in courageous ways to make sure that Saturday night was not worse than it was.”