Sugarland: ‘We are all changed’ by collapse

October 29, 2011 • National News

Country music duo Sugarland vocalist Jennifer Nettles performs a benefit concert in Indianapolis, Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. Seven people were killed and dozens more were injured in the Aug. 13 stage collapse at the Indiana State fairground venue where high winds ahead of an approaching storm toppled scaffolding and stage rigging just minutes before Sugarland was to perform. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Country duo Sugarland delivered a rousing show Friday night for a packed house of fans — some of whom were injured in a deadly stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair in August — after singer Jennifer Nettles told the crowd the tragedy had changed them all.

Nettles opened the 2½-hour show at Conesco Fieldhouse Indianapolis by telling the audience they were in store for an emotional night that would also be part celebration. She later told fans that Sugarland had visited the fairgrounds, where high winds toppled scaffolding and stage rigging on Aug. 13 [auth] into a crowd awaiting a performance bu the country duo. Seven people were killed.

“Obviously we are here in October — we were supposed to do this show in August. Obviously, the stage is different, you are different and we are different. We are all changed by what happened then,” she said. “But we are going to try to give you the best show that we can and to celebrate healing with you and to celebrate life and music with you here tonight.”

The Grammy-winning duo’s free concert came 10 weeks after the stage collapsed as a storm neared the fairgrounds’ Grandstand a few miles north of Friday night’s venue.

Among those attending the benefit concert were Laura Magdziarz of Morocco, Ind., who was trapped amid the stage collapse, and her 3-year-old daughter Maggie Mullin, who suffered a badly injured arm.

“We’ve made so many friends out of such a horrible tragedy. I think this is a good thing, and it’s definitely going to be emotional,” Magdziarz said.

Attendees at the Friday night concert were being asked to donate to a victim relief fund that already has raised nearly $1 million.

Rick Stevens, who served as an Army medic in Vietnam, said he still doesn’t like to discuss what he saw that night as he and other fans rushed into the tangled metal rigging to help people crushed in the collapse.

“It’s going to take some people forever, if ever they get over this,” said Stevens, 57, of Terre Haute. “I don’t know many people, unless you’re in a war, who experience mass death, and the injuries of that caliber and the screaming that was going on.”

Indiana-based musician Corey Cox along with actress Rita Wilson performed before Sugarland took the stage.

“Everyone’s going to experience the healing power of music because it’s one of the best medicines there is,” he said before the event.

Cox performed a few weeks ago at a benefit concert for a woman from his hometown of Pendleton, Ind. — 30-year-old Andrea Vellinga — who suffered severe head injuries in the stage collapse and still is struggling to recover. Vellinga’s family and friends were expected to be seated in the front row for Friday’s concert.

A psychiatrist who specializes in treating survivors of disasters said attending the concert could help some of the roughly 40 people injured in the stage collapse and relatives of those killed come to terms with the tragedy. But he said there’s a chance it could deal others a setback, dredging up intense and painful memories.

“It’s good that this benefit concert should happen, but it may be too hard for some people to go through it,” said Anthony Ng, interim chief medical officer at The Acadia Hospital in Bangor, Maine. “Obviously everybody’s different and there’s no right way or wrong way to do this.”

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