Can you imagine what it must be like to a first responder, a police officer, an EMT or a hospital employee in Orlando, Florida during this awful, horrifying week? Or what it must be like to be the loved one of any of the multitude of victims of all these senselsess Orlando tragedies?
I’ve never seen a city with such a trio of terrible news stories, in such quick succession, as those taking place in Orlando over the past few days. Christina Grimmie, singer, gunned down by a crazed fan; 49 dead, 53 injured at the Pulse Nightclub during an Islamic terrorist attack, perhaps accomplished with the complicity of his wife, as it’s turning out; and now, almost unbelievably, a child snatched from the beach in the jaws of an alligator at Disney World. Snatched from the “Seven Seas Lagoon,” no less, the lake that’s the centerpiece of Disney World, a location, usually, at least, that is devoted to relaxation and peace.
Orlando has been my home away from home for almost 40 years. I love that place. Admittedly, I have only seen it as a tourist, not a resident. It’s one of my two preferred vacation destinations since I know that at Disney World I’ll always have a nice, relaxing time, and get the chance to shop at the international stores in the EPCOT section, too. I know Disney World like the back of my hand, and Universal Studios, too. I can’t honestly say I know the rest of the city too well. The one and only music venue I ever went to there, to hear my favorite kind of old-time early twentieth century music, was Rosie O’Grady’s, and that was maybe 20 years ago.
Still, if you’ve been to Orlando, and I’ve been there dozens of times, you meet and get to know the people. Making the rest of us happy is their business, and they always deliver. Always! I remember Annie the waitress at the Days Inn who would dance our breakfasts over to my mother, when she’d join me on vacation, and me, and would jokingly call her boss “that ole goat!” I remember the hostess at the same Days Inn who told me to go outside and see the Space Shuttle as it took off, an amazing sight I’ve never forgotten. I think of the gifted young man who played the honky tonk piano in the ice cream parlor at Disney World. Any one of them could have been directly affected by the recent events there – who knows? Are they okay at the moment, or are they among the victims, or the mourners? And, most of all, I think of the wonderful, first-class show put on at Universal Studios, at their Wizarding World of Harry Potter park, where a young man who ran one of the rides for the pleasure of the rest of us was one of those gunned down in the club massacre. Who could kill a man that runs a ride to make people happy?
To the people of Orlando: my heart goes out to you. To the police, first responders, rescue workers, the bouncer at the nightclub who saved so many people, those leading the Disney World rescue effort, all of you wonderful, tireless people: you’re heroes! May you never have to be heroes in such circumstances ever again, though.
By the way, there’s a bit of good news to add. Another Harry Potter ride operator, who was also struck, is recovering.
The world loves you, Orlando, Florida! Let’s hope tomorrow will be a better day.