Playing At the Indy State Fair Memorial Service…

On Saturday, August 13th, 2011, the main stage at the Indiana State Fair collapsed. With it, 5 people lost their lives and many more were seriously injured. Most of us at home sat  in front of our TVs just in shock. It was awful to watch as they played the same video clips over and over again. How could this have happened?

Here’s something you may not have seen in the news reports though: without even a second’s thought, dozens and dozens of concertgoers rushed not to the exit, but straight to the stage to lend a hand. You see, many of the people in the front rows were trapped underneath the rubble. No one knew exactly what to do, but these heroes that rushed forward knew they had to do something. Suddenly, someone yelled out “lift on three!” “1, 2, 3!!” All of a sudden, the crowd was pulling people out, getting them to medical personnel, and sticking it out to make sure no one was left behind. It was amazing to see.

It truly left me with a sense of awe. Wow, what would I have done? Would I have run to the exit, or to the stage? I felt so proud to be a Hoosier that night, and I still do today. That is true heroism.

The next day, Sunday, the news reports had confirmed that 5 folks had lost their lives in the incident and that there would a memorial service held in their honor. Shortly after, we were contacted by a friend to see if we would be willing to play during this service. Both Amanda and I felt honored to be asked to apart of such a service and of course said “yes.”

We decided early on that “Fail Us Not” would be the most fitting song. This song does not deny the existence of tragedy, but doesn’t end the story with it either. It boldly declares that God is above all things, and faithful throughout. Dr. William Enright’s words at the memorial seemed to echo the sentiment perfectly. I thought what he had to say was beautiful and powerful (you can view his message at the service by clicking here). 8:59pm on Saturday was horrible for sure, but it shall not be the last word.

I don’t get nervous often when we play, but I was incredibly nervous at the memorial. Honestly, I didn’t even know that the service was going to be televised nor did I know that it would be covered by so many news sources. I wasn’t nervous because of that. I was nervous because as I looked out at the crowd and saw people’s faces, I wanted to say something meaningful and hopeful to them. I wanted “Fail Us Not” to bring God’s peace in the midst of their grief and despair. I wanted them to have hope.

It is always tough when you are playing a song and you see people crying. You’re not sure if you’re helping or hurting. In the midst of these times, I am always aware that it’s not about me, but that God is in our midst and He is active. He is moving and touching. Honestly, I don’t know if “Fail Us Not” was helpful or not, but I know that the God that we sing of is an “ever-present help in times of trouble.” To be sure, Psalm 46 speaks beautifully…

 1 God is our refuge and strength,
   an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
   and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
   and the mountains quake with their surging.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us;

   the God of Jacob is our fortress.

The service was closed out by all of us singing “Amazing Grace:”

When we’ve been there (heaven) 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun…

Our tragedies are real and they can be awful. But they are not the last word. Praise God that He reserves that right and that He will make all things new, and set everything aright.

Peace be to you,