I first saw this story last night, of a tragic event at the Indiana State Fair where, just before the scheduled beginning of a Sugarland concert, a huge storm rolled in and destroyed the stage and, sadly, killed several and injured many more. From a poorly reported MSNBC story:

Sugarland’s manager, Gail Gellman, credited [stage manager Hellen] Rollens with keeping the country pop duo from walking down the ramp at the last second, just as a 70 mph gust of wind from an approaching storm caused the stage to topple over onto the crowd, killing five fans and injuring dozens of others.

“Everybody was standing in a prayer circle getting ready to go onstage, and [as Rollens] was walking down the ramp, the stage fell. So her decision to hold them for literally a minute saved every band member and crew’s life,” Gellman told the Associated Press.

Just awful. As more reports started to come in, though, I learned that one of those killed was an active LGBT activist named Christina Santiago. Her partner, Alisha Marie Brennon, was one of the injured. The folks at the NOH8 campaign took time to talk about Christina and Alisha on their blog:

Christina has been described in so many articles we’ve read as an incredible asset to Chicago’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community – one that will be desperately missed – and our deepest condolences go out to Christina and Alisha’s friends and family during this difficult time.

Christina was a program manager at the Howard Brown Health Center’s Lesbian Community Care Project. Pictures of Christina can still be seen on the program’s website.

Here’s how her boss described her:

Jamal Edwards, president and CEO of Howard Brown, said Santiago and Brennon had been together a little over two years and were inseparable. Brennon did not work at Howard Brown, but she was such a constant presence there she had many friends, he said.

Santiago “was a fierce advocate. She was as brilliant as she was beautiful. She was the greatest advocate for equal health care for all. That love doesn’t die, it lives on,” Edwards said. “She has been a leading and driving force in the expansion of our women’s health services division and a powerful advocate for all LGBT women.

NOH8 also took time to make a salient point which is often forgotten (not by us) in the debate over equality — that actual people’s lives are involved, and that being asked to wait, or worse, having people actively fighting to make our lives worse, is simply not okay:

Tragedies like this just illustrate how important it is for couples to have the rights that allow them to celebrate their love and their lives now.

Christina and Alisha were one of the first couples to get a civil union in Cook County when civil unions became legal in Illinois earlier this year. Those who claim the issue of same sex marriages and civil unions can “wait” should think hard about that idea after reading stories like these. This beautiful couple only had a short few months together to celebrate their civil union — but we take solace in the fact they at least had that opportunity to prove their love to the world, however brief.

Indeed. This would be a tragic story no matter who the victims were, but it seems to merit a moment of reflection on the really broad issue of the fact that these are people, just out there living their lives, and that the time to correct injustices that would have made Christina’s life, at the very least, easier, is NOW.

Of course, a story like this wouldn’t be complete without a wingnut pissing all over it.  Here’s Donald Douglas of the American Power blog [via American Henchman and Thers]:

A beautiful young woman is dead. And LGBT ASFL NOH8 couldn’t simply commemorate her life with dignity. These idiots had to turn it into some kind of epic guilt trip about “only” a few months to celebrate a civil union.

People die. And always, every death reminds us for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

What a nice sentiment. How dare gay people commemorate a beautiful young woman, who happened to be an LGBT rights activist, you moron, and who spent her life fighting for people like her and like us, by expressing their condolences, celebrating and encouraging the continuation of her life’s work, and taking the sad opportunity to put a very human face on the inequality lesbian and gay people face every single day?  How dare they?

Sounds like the wingnut would rather recognize the beautiful young woman’s death [a woman he doesn’t even know, of course] in a way that goes down as easily as possible, and certainly not in a way that might cause him to reflect on his own bigotry.

We at Truth Wins Out send all our love to Alisha and her and Christina’s extended family, friends and coworkers.  They are obviously mourning a dear soul.

Christina loved Sugarland, and so do I, so I’ll end this post with one of my very favorite songs by them.