I was born and raised in Florida. I have seen alligators on golf courses and in parking lots. I know they exist. I have been to Disney more times than I have been to Red Lobster. I never stayed at the Grand Floridian because I am not made of cash, but I have walked near the Seven Seas Lagoon, and I have ridden boats on it. I never saw an alligator on Disney property, and I never expected to see one there. I was in Disney, where magic is real and all animals are animatronic. The only alligator I saw during any of my trips to the land of magic was in the Peter Pan ride.
I’m sick to my stomach over little Lane’s alligator related death. I can’t imagine the horror he felt or the horror that his parents will live with forever. Of course, hard hearted idiots out there are already blaming the parents. People are saying it is “common sense” to know to keep your kids away from a lake in Florida, especially one with No Swimming signs. Common sense is not so common and the kid wasn’t swimming. He was walking in the water, or wading. Common sense is made up of your experiences, the things you learn during life. Lane’s family is from Nebraska. Alligators are not a part of a Nebraska resident’s common sense.
Honestly, I don’t think common sense would have kicked in for me either. Have you seen the beach area at the Grand Floridian? Shocker – it looks just like a beach. There’s beautiful white sand, beach chairs, and a regular looking shore line. Yes, there are No Swimming signs, but that doesn’t mean you can’t touch the water, or be near it. Why wouldn’t kids want to build sand castles next on a nice little shore like this? Why wouldn’t parents let them? There were no alligator warning signs. No Swimming isn’t equivalent to saying, “There are alligators in the lake.” I think that would have gotten everyone’s attention.
And Disney should have had signs like this because they KNEW there was a problem. Management was aware that some guests were feeding alligators. Employees even requested that a fence be built. Disney even has its own “wildlife-management team” in place to remove nuisance gators. In spite of all of this, the folks at Disney still showed movies on the beach at night. They were encouraging families to hang out on a beach next to a gator filled lake at night, alligator meal time. Why are we shocked that an alligator, a wild predator, took a small kid standing next to its habitat during feeding time?
As with any tragic event, we have the thoughts and prayers people. Wow, what a lovely and totally useless sentiment. “Thoughts and prayers.” I see this over and over on social media. So, just whispering to yourself in your home or church or wherever, or thinking nice thoughts is going to bring back the little boy? Is it going to take away the parents’ sadness and guilt? What exactly do thoughts and prayers actually do? Why do people feel obligated to say this? Either be quiet or just speak the truth. Say things like:
“I’m sorry you are going through this.”
“If I could do anything to change it, I would.”
“I feel helpless and I don’t know what to say.”
Seriously, if I were in this situation and someone offered “thoughts and prayers” I would go on a jack-slapping spree.
Maybe, instead of thinking and praying, we can do real things like work to prevent this from happening to another family. Call Disney, write them, picket them, fly a banner over the Magic Kingdom, write snarky blogs, call your congressman. Do whatever you can. Demand that fences go up. Heck, maybe we can even bring Donald Trump to Florida and have him build a wall around the Seven Seas Lagoon. This should never happen again. If there is a known problem we need to work on an actual solution, not just sit around and talk about how rare it is and hope it doesn’t happen again.
Yes, I know. Alligators were there first. Blah, blah, blah. That doesn’t mean we can just let them eat pets and children. Maybe we need to start actually thinking of ways to protect everyone, alligators included, by maintaining a healthy separation. Those five gators in the Seven Seas Lagoon would not have been killed if there had been a fence or even an honest sign about WHY there was no swimming allowed. The sign should have a picture of an alligator with big teeth, just to show our friends who don’t speak English what the real deal is. Until then, I will enjoy all of my Disney magic in California, where there are no gators. The humidity is also a lot lower.