Maggie's Story: A tale of hope from the State Fair tragedy
It was a magical day at the Children's Museum a few weeks ago. An energetic and rambunctious Maggie Mullin led her family around with pictures and posed at the Barbie exhibit. It was a day of fun.
But for this four-year-old and her family, this day was about much more than just having fun.
"What do you think of all these crazy people staring at you?" asked Maggie's mother Laura Magdziarz. "They all helped you. Can you tell 'em thanks?"
It's a reunion of sorts, three months in the making. Channel 13 brought eight people together to see Maggie and each other for the first time since they helped one another help a little girl they had never met.
"I think they were all heroes but not a one of them wants to say that. They're very modest", said Laura. "I mean, and that's even more amazing because they don't want to take credit for what they really did."
And what did they do? "Literally saved Maggie's life," said her mother.
It was the evening of August 13. A wind gust toppled the stage rigging at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
Maggie, who was with her family waiting for the country duo Sugarland to take the stage, had been hit by debris. Maggie was under the heap of tangled aluminum girders, blood gushing from her left arm and leg.
"We need a medic really bad for this little girl right here," David Wood could be heard screaming while his cell phone recorded the aftermath. Wood, a machinist by trade, knew he had to do something. "I took my shirt off to make a makeshift tourniquet."
Maggie's mother suffered a severe leg injury. She couldn't walk. She handed off her youngest daughter to another concert-goer, Natalie Prater.
"I got a tourniquet applied and started the hand off," said Prater, who happens to be a pediatric nurse. It was a handoff from stranger to stranger that made all the difference.
"Hey, we got a doctor! Watch out!" Wood could be heard yelling in the cell phone video.
Dr. Rob Klinestiver was next in line.
"Her arm seemed to be very unstable," said Klinestiver, a critical care specialist at Hancock Regional Hospital. "I knew she had had a serious injury and lost a lot of blood so I knew it was life-threatening."
From under the wreckage, he passed Maggie to State Trooper Chris Lockman, who was off duty at the time. "At that point in time I took Maggie and I ran her up to the first aid station."
Hamilton County Sheriff Mark Bowen, also off-duty at the time, was there too. He "helped him get her in the first aid station and assess her injuries."
Her injuries included a serious gash to the left arm at the elbow and another laceration on her upper left leg.
Firefighter Toby Pauley was also at the first aid station. He found a little girl with a blood-soaked tutu. It was an outfit just like the one worn by her favorite singer - Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland.
"She wasn't crying and she didn't cry until we cut the dress," said Pauley. "Then she went ballistic," joked Bowen.
Calming her down was medical assistant Debbie Evans, who rode with Maggie in the ambulance.
"And the entire time she just looked at me and she would just say, 'Am I gonna be okay?' At the time, it was a difficult question to answer," said Evans.
Indianapolis EMS Paramedic Doug Lackey drove Maggie to the hospital. He was the only one of the group of rescuers actually working that night.
"From my side we really don't see that kind of compassion from complete strangers a lot and it was really nice to see that," said Lackey.
"It really has renewed my faith. I really do believe that God directed us in some way to be at the right place at the right time," said Rob Klinestiver.
A lot of people were at the right place at the right time that August night. It's impossible to know how many people helped the injured...or even for sure how many helped Maggie. But in every case, people did something usually considered unusual; they got involved. They helped a stranger.
At home in northwest Indiana
"Ugh...my stuffed animal off my bed!!!" exclaimed Maggie as she bolted through her house. With her speed and agility, it's tough to tell that just a few months ago, Maggie, who turned four shortly after she was injured, came close to losing her life. The only evidence is a scar that wraps around her left arm.
"That's my cast," she said. But Maggie doesn't have a cast any more.
"I don't need it!"
And does she feel better?
"Um hum," is her short, simple answer.
She's got pictures of many of her rescuers who visited her in the days after she was hurt.
She's got a closet full of tutus - gifts from around the country.
"We're definitely not lacking in tutus, are we?" her mother Laura asked rhetorically, pointing to the closet stuffed with nearly a dozen of the lacy dresses.
Mark Bowen brought her the first tutu to replace the one destroyed the night of the collapse. "That little girl just stole my heart and I just can't help but love her," he said.
Fate brought them together
A county sheriff, doctor, nurse, medical assistant, state trooper, firefighter and machinist, all of whom felt compelled to act.
"I hoped that I would do what I did and I did it. And it makes me feel good about myself and I'm just so thankful that I was able to make a difference in somebody's life in such a big way," said Natalie Prater, the nurse.
"I feel there's a reason all of us were truly there," explained Debbie Evans, the medical assistant. "I feel like god places us in a position just as individuals in life to be in certain places at certain times."
All eight people agree it was fate that brought them together. A chain of events and of people who made a difference.
"A lot of us say, well, we didn't do much. But, you know, a lot of a little makes a big thing. And we made a big impact on her life," said Chris Lockman, the State Trooper.
How do you say "thank you" for saving your daughter's life?
"That I haven't figured out yet. This is a start," said Laura, referring to the bond that's developed between her family and the people who rescued Maggie.
"Immediately we got connected and ever since she's called me her best buddy and she tells me I'm her hero all the time and it's one of the most humbling experiences I've ever experienced," said Evans. "I just think she's probably one of the strongest little girls I've ever met and she's actually my hero."
Maggie still goes to physical therapy three times a week. It's unclear if she'll ever have complete use of her left arm.
But she's alive thanks to a group of strangers. They now they have an inseparable bond with each other and with a little girl who's alive today because in her time of need, they were there and they did something.