Last Saturday, the stage at the Indiana State Fair collapsed after failing to withstand gusts of wind at 60 to 70 miles per hour. A friend of mine was about ten feet from it and said it happened without warning; the sky got dark and a sudden gust of wind toppled the state. Twitter was flooded with updates on the injured and deceased, pictures and videos of the collapse, and various prayers and well wishes. Five people lost their lives as a result of the collapse, many others were injured.
Let the blame game begin! AccuWeather meteorologist Mike Smith told CBS News that “it was very predictable. We put out a warning for 60 mile-an-hour winds a full half-hour before the stage collapse occurred.” A groundskeeper, Roger Smith, said “it’s pathetic. It makes me mad, those lives could have been saved yesterday.” Anyone who has had a concert cancelled on them can tell you how annoying it is; dealing with ticket refunds and reissues, having your plans blown for a reason that never seems good enough. I guarantee that if the area was evacuated and nothing but a few raindrops fell, people would be irate at having to inconvenience themselves and move out, delaying the Sugarland show for no good reason. The stage was in good condition, the crew gave the crowd a warning that an evacuation may be necessary, and they were in communication with the National Weather Service; while it’s sad that people lost their lives, it was hardly anyone’s fault but Mother Nature.
Of course the situation is sad and of course it would have been wonderful if it could have been prevented or if the area had been cleared prior to the collapse. Sadly, tragedy isn’t always avoidable. After Katrina hit, people blamed Bush for not liking black people (thank you, Kanye) and for not better preparing for the hurricane to strike, they blamed the government as a whole for not responding in what they deemed a proper way, they blamed residents for not evacuating sooner. It seemed as though the blame was everywhere but on the environment that constructed a deadly storm and blew it towards Louisiana, a place where many cities are below sea level and are susceptible to flooding. Shit happens and when it does, it doesn’t tend to take your feelings into consideration while it travels down its destructive path. Until we find a way to control the weather, we need to accept that not everything can be prevented, and in some situations the only thing we can do is react after the fact.
Using blame as a coping mechanism isn’t a good way to deal with a tragic event. For those who are currently dealing with the loss of friends and family or are worried about injured folk in the hospital, I feel for you. To those who were at the fair and are shaken up, I understand it’s hard. That being said, it’s no one’s fault and attempting to find a person or source to place blame upon is a pointless exercise. Are you really going to get angry at meteorologists, people who have the only job in the world where you can be wrong half the time and not be fired? Or be angry at the crew who did their best to keep people safe while attempting to ensure the show went on? Nothing is accomplished by slamming people for not doing what you think would be appropriate. They did their job to the best of their ability and sadly it wasn’t enough to prevent injuries and deaths. Maybe the entire show should have been cancelled and everyone sent home, maybe the crowd should have taken it upon themselves to leave the fairgrounds, and maybe the crew should have evacuated people 5 minutes sooner. All those maybe’s don’t change what happened though, so maybe we should accept what happened as an unpreventable act of nature and maybe we should learn from it and be better prepared for the next storm rather than waste our time seeking out a scapegoat.