One year ago today, Lisa Hite and her 8-year-old granddaughter Kyla were standing underneath a beautiful blue sky, inches from the Indiana State Fair stage where one of Kyla’s favorite bands, Sugarland, was about to perform.
In an instant, the skies filled with clouds and winds began to pick up. Now, the two Logansport residents are still dealing with the emotional and physical scars left behind after the stage collapsed, injuring more than 40 people and killing seven.
As she sits with her knee propped up on the couch because of a knee surgery performed last week, Hite explains that last year she and Kyla were in the “Sugar Pit” by the stage area when she saw a stage banner overhead fall toward the crowd.
As she watched, she felt something strike her on the back and a burning sensation in her legs as she was knocked down. Kyla lay nearby, facedown in the sand.
The next thing she remembers, they were being taken to the triage area for treatment.
But she and Kyla can’t remember the pieces in between.
“I think it’s better that we don’t remember,” Hite said.
The stage collapsed on both of them and as a result, both she and Kyla received concussions and head lacerations. Hite also received injuries to her right foot and knee and had to undergo surgeries for both.
But it’s the emotional damage that’s harder to deal with, Hite said.
Both she and Kyla suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, and Hite said Kyla has lasting fears from the stage collapse.
“She gets scared when it storms and she doesn’t like sleeping by herself,” Hite said. “But it’s getting better.”
Hite said the winter was the hardest for her, because she could not walk as a result of her injuries and thus could not work. Much of her time was spent reflecting on the people who had died around her, she said.
“I felt guilty because of the people who died,” Hite said.
She and Kyla have found support and relief through talking with friends who’ve also survived the stage collapse.
“It’s a bond that we have that will always be there,” Hite said. “We understand what each other’s going through, and it’s helped a lot just to talk.”
However, there are still some who question Hite’s involvement in the Sugarland lawsuit.
“I guess one of the biggest things is people don’t understand why we’re suing Sugarland,” Hite said. “It was their show. They’re responsible.”
As one of the defendants in a lawsuit against Sugarland, Hite said she’s hoping to make up the $100,000 in medical expenses she and her granddaughter have, as well as the wages she lost when she couldn’t work.
Scott Starr, the Logansport attorney representing Hite and Kyla, said there are more than 100 depositions to be taken in the case, meaning that it won’t be tried in court until at least August 2014.
“These cases are so large that there’s a real risk that even with all of the different defendants there won’t be enough money to cover their medical expenses,” he said.
The victims of the stage collapse will also find out Wednesday if they’ll receive a pool of $6 million or $14 million from the companies involved in the stage collapse.
After the stage collapse, Hite said she feels she’s been changed by the experience, and, as a nurse, now deals with hurt patients with more patience.
“It definitely makes you a different person,” Hite said. “It makes you look at life a lot differently.”
Jean Roland, Hite’s mother, had tears in her eyes as she said the whole family has been changed since the collapse.
“I think it’s drawn us closer, because we could have lost both of them and it really terrifies me to think about,” Roland said.
Though Hite said she does not think they’ll ever find closure, she said the entire family will go to the Indiana State Fair Saturday to attend the motorcycle race on the same track where the concert was held.
When they return to the track, Hite said she hopes she and Kyla can move forward.
“I think it’s important that you face that fear and that it’s not the same as it was,” Hite said.
• Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or firstname.lastname@example.org.