Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11 and Disney World

Over the past eleven years I have spoken and written a lot about that day in 2001 that my home was attacked. (See the latest here - and follow the links) But I haven't written much about the trip we almost made to Disney World, or the one which we did.

September 11, 2001 actually started for me with a telephone call from Orlando. I had stayed home that morning, not sick but still not feeling 100%. I was asleep when my daughter - at the beginning of her Disney career - woke me with a phone call. (She was off that day.) She asked if the world was coming to an end. Having just woken up, I had no idea what she was talking about. When she said that the World Trade Center was gone, my mind could not grasp it, and all I could think of was a bad science fiction movie where aliens rip the twin towers out of the ground. I turned on the TV and saw a scene that looked just as much like science fiction as my initial thought as I watched one of the towers come down. Looking out of my window in the direction of Manhattan, I saw a black sky. Soon debris started falling here reminiscent of the dreaded nuclear winter. (You do not want to know what that debris consisted of.)

I was happy to know that she was at home and not at work at the Caribbean Beach Resort, where she was working at the time. However, Disney World was closed that day - the second time ever. (The first was a precaution against Hurricane Floyd just a few years earlier while my son was working in WDW.) I was a bit nervous as Disneyland and WDW were listed among the possible top targets. Since the airports and the parks were closed, when she returned to work, many guests were stranded but Disney accommodated them all, allowing those with airline tickets to remain in their rooms at no charge. Characters were dispatched to try to keep them entertained and thus the Character Caravan was born.

We had originally planned to visit WDW in the middle of September, but between scheduling and the holidays we decided that early November would work better, so we found ourselves in Disney World just weeks after the terrorist attacks. The feeling of togetherness was amazing, as if all Americans were related. US flags were appearing on T-shirts, pins, etc. on almost every guest you passed. Patriotic merchandise also was appearing in the gift shops - my favorites were the pins that had Mickey Mouse shaking hands with first responders - firefighters, police, etc.

But by far, the feeling was strongest, as you would imagine - at The American Adventure. A flag from ground zero was on display along with an exhibit on the World Trade Center. You could feel the energy (for lack of a better word) in the lobby that while we were hit and hit hard, we will not fall apart, but come together!

The performance given by The Voices of Liberty was particularly well received, though no mention of the attacks was made ... tributes to our armed services received unusually strong responses from the guests in attendance. (You can see the entire performance here.)

I took the finale of their performance that day and made this tribute to those who lost their lives that day. I have shared it each September 11, so please watch it and share it with others.