Lights for Alina: Remembering BigJohny

By Linda Jackson
By Scott Sarvay
By Rachel Martin
By Megan Trent

August 19, 2011 Updated Oct 23, 2013 at 11:56 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Hundreds of people came to Wayne High School Friday night for an emotional "Lights for Alina" memorial ceremony.

Family members spoke to the crowd about the tremendous amount of support they've received over the last week. The names of all six of the victims, including the lastest - Jenny Haskell, were read aloud. Then the crowd gazed upward as more than 1,000 pink balloons with glow sticks tied to them were released into the night sky.

Indiana's NewsCenter spoke with Alina's mother, who said her daughter would have adored all of the pink balloons and love being sent her way. She said Alina lived a very full life and touched many lives.

Two of BigJohny's best friends were also there for the ceremony. Kelsea Jackson said their group of friends (including Alina), had just returned from a trip to celebrate Alina's 23rd birthday. "We know she would have wanted us to do things like this for her, because if she were here, she would have done the same thing for us," said Jackson.

Tabitha Grainger said, ""I'm just going to miss her a lot. She was one of my best friends. I'll always remember her. She'll always be in the back of my mind. Anything I do, she'll be there."

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – Friends and family came to say a final farewell to 23-year-old Alina BigJohny Friday.

Alina BigJohny was one of six people killed in the stage collapse during the Sugarland concert at the Indiana State Fair August 13.

It was standing room only as more than 200 mourners filled Klaehn, Fahl, and Melton Funeral Home on Winchester Road in Fort Wayne.

Robert Dickey, who lived down the street from BigJohny, says the tragedy has affected the entire community. "It's been on my mind ever since it happened. I've been seeing it on the news. My heart goes out to the family and everybody in our community."

Family and friends gathered Thursday at Alina BigJohny's visitation. Alina BigJohny was one of six people killed in the stage collapse during the Sugarland concert at the Indiana State Fair August 13.

Indiana’s NewsCenter has been talking to friends, classmates, and professors who knew Alina before her tragic death last Saturday. Here are some of the things they shared with us.

Jessie Hickerson, friend and classmate from Manchester College said, “She was so funny and spunky. Anything anyone said she would laugh at, she would make people laugh. If you came in on a bad day, she'd make you feel better. She always had a smile on her face. She was the kind of person that could impact such a small campus in such a big way.”

Arturo Pena, Jr. knew Alina from Wayne High School. “Amazing. That's all I have to say about her. Every time, [she] always a smile on her face. Every time she walked in the room [there was] always a smile on that girl's face. She was a good person and she was very smart and caring and loving, and she'd do anything for anybody.”

“The first thing you think about is how open and honest she is and she was willing to tell you exactly how she felt. But at the same time, she was so sweet. You couldn't get over how sweet she was,” said Kayla Sollars who met Alina at Manchester College.

Andrea Miles grew up in the same neighborhood as Alina. She went to elementary, middle and high school with her. “She meant so much to all of us. Everyone knew who she was, everyone loved her. She was so popular. The whole time we went to school with her she was so popular. And she was such a good fun-loving person, and it's just so not fair that anything like this would happen to her. God seriously took someone that helped other people that was so successful in life. I just can't believe God would take someone like that from us.”

Prof. Vicki Eastman had her in class during Alina’s first year at Manchester. “To meet her is to just really get excited. She was passionate about teaching even right off of the bat, it was very important to her. She knew what she wanted and she wanted to make a difference.”

Alina BigJohny just turned 23 on August 4. She graduated from Wayne High School in 2007, and was the Salutatorian. She was also Senior Class President, Editor of the yearbook, and was on the gymnastics team. Alina earned her English Education Degree from Manchester College this past spring where she was a Student Ambassador. She was scheduled to start her new job this week as a 7th grade English teacher at Wilson Middle School in Muncie, Ind.

Visitation hours are Thursday from 2-9 p.m. at Klaehn, Fahl & Melton Funeral Home on 6424 Winchester Road in Fort Wayne. The funeral service is Friday at 11 a.m.

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