The news this morning about the two year old being taken by an alligator in Disneyworld is horrifying and tragic.
But it’s not a surprise.
We were in Disneyworld in April of 1985, staying in Fort Wilderness. I don’t think that area exists anymore, but at the time it was a really nice section of Disneyworld with trailers/mobile homes to rent. Our family and friends rented three side-by-side trailers which backed up to a canal. There was a dirt beach. And picnic tables and outdoor grills. It was an affordable alternative to the fancy hotels, but it had paved sidewalks, roads, a beautiful beach and all the amenities.
My children were five, seven and twelve.
One afternoon Willie (age 7) and Nancy (age 5) were playing near the water just a few yards from the trailer while the rest of us were getting dinner ready. The kids were putting rocks on a log that was sticking out in the water, but they weren’t in the water. There were a couple of wild birds walking around, sitting on the log, pecking in the dirt. I heard Willie scream.
We all came running out of the trailers.
“Alligator!!!!! I see an alligator!!!” He pointed to the water.
Willie always had the kind of vision that could see the smallest things. He could find anything, from missing contact lenses to tiny bugs.
The alligator was less than two feet from the shore where the kids had played. I think he was after those ducks (?). He was 8 feet long. And patient.
I called the Fort Wilderness office. The woman who answered sounded bored.
“It’s Florida,” she said. “We have alligators.”
Really? We were from Idaho. There were no signs that said, “Beware of alligators” or “Don’t go near the canal.”
When I told her the thing was 8 feet long she perked up a bit and promised to send someone over to look at it.
Two men eventually brought a boat to the canal and tried to tempt the alligator with chicken. They had a noose and intended to rope it if they could get it to attack the bag.
But that alligator was long gone.
I told the Disneyworld people that they should have signs posted. They acted as if we were over reacting.
Thirty-one years later? Those poor Nebraska parents obviously had no idea of the danger lurking in the water.
We certainly didn’t. And I don’t think the folks at Disneyworld wanted the fact that alligators were part of the resort to mar their reputation.
I wonder if they will put some “Beware of alligators” signs up now.