State Fair stage collapse victim makes strides at IU

Jaymie Polet was seriously injured in the stage collapse at the Indiana State Fair.

With each step, a small victory. Walking down stairs is a challenge for Jaymie Polet.

"It's hard, but I really do push myself in a way and I know that the more I do, the easier it will get for me," she said.

Finally a freshman at Indiana University, she now has plenty of practice walking to classes. She started school a semester late.

"I feel like it is my time to be here and this is where I need to be," she explained. "Because I can't put it off any longer and for me to move on, I need to be here and get on with my life."

Her life took an unexpected detour last summer. Along with her mother, younger sister and a close friend, they made the trip from Cincinnati to see Sugarland perform at the Indiana State Fair. They were preparing to enjoy one of their favorite bands when suddenly a gust of wind took down the stage rigging.

"All of the sudden, it was like slow motion," said Jordan Polet, Jaymie's 10-year-old sister. "The stage started falling down on us."

Jordan somehow escaped injury. But their mother was seriously hurt, so was Jaymie. Family friend Megan Toothman suffered critical injuries and died just a few days later.

"She pushed herself," Jaymie said, speaking of Megan, who was like a sister. "She did a million things and still finished grad school and I just want to make her proud. I want to be what Megan was."

So after spending 11 days at St. Vincent Hospital with two broken legs and a skull fracture, and another two weeks in the hospital at home in Cincinnati, it was time for Jaymie to start moving.

Encouraged a by a physical therapist, we watched as Jaymie went through the motions on an elliptical trainer, strengthening her legs.

Weeks of therapy turned into months.

"There was not day that went by that I didn't cry or wasn't mad about something, but I'm here and now I have a whole new outlook on life and I'm a better person because of it," said Jaymie.

All along the way, she was encouraged by her family.

"She's always there for me and it's my turn to be there for her," said her little sister Jordan.

This 18-year-old had healed enough to move on.

"We see the same young girl that we know, that's fighting, arguing and full of life," said her father, Roland.

"She's back! She's fully back!" exclaimed her mother, Jill.

And ready for IU. Anonymity has helped her progress.

"I'm Jaymie from Cincinnati, I'm not the girl from the accident anymore, so I think it's easier to be here but it's still hard," Jaymie said.

Hard because of the loss of a friend, memories of Megan adorn her room. Jaymie wears a pendent close to her heart.

"I'm really happy to be here (at IU) and really happy to just kind of move on with my life. There are so many new beginnings for me and it feels great to actually be at college and be doing what I'm supposed to do," she explained.

Which includes occasionally giving speeches about her experience.

"I go around everyday thinking, 'Don't cry about what happened, because I'm still here'," she said while giving a speech to a communications class.

Finding a balance between sharing her story, but also being just a face in a crowd, so that the accident won't define her, but will give her greater purpose.

"You're here for a reason. And hopefully it's to do great things in life, so that's what I'm going to try to do!" Jaymie said.