When I learned that a 2-year-old boy had been killed by an alligator at Disney World, my first thought was, "Could this have happened to my child?" After all, we are frequent Disney visitors and have stayed at another resort near the Grand Floridian that also borders the Seven Seas Lagoon, where this tragedy took place. We have walked around the grounds near the spot where Nebraska toddler Lane Graves was attacked. And while we haven't walked near the water's edge, I have allowed my children to run onto the sandy beaches.
That's why I can just imagine how another mom, Jennifer Venditti, feels knowing her son played in the exact spot where Lane was dragged away from his parents, and just an hour earlier. The Massachusetts mother posted photos of her boy wading in the lagoon to Facebook, and her accompanying message has since gone viral with more than 147,000 shares.
"PRAY, PRAY so hard for the family & for those who witnessed this tragic event," Venditti wrote in her post. "I took these pics at the exact spot this happened betw 8 & 830, the incident happened at 9. Helicopters flew overhead til 1 am and were back around dawn. I can't imagine anyone could sleep knowing that the helicopter was searching for a missing child taken by an alligator. I can't help but wonder if we played with him, did I talk to his Mom?? How does one go home without your baby in tow?"
Venditti continued with an urgent plea to people who are judging the heartbroken parents of little Lane, writing, "I've already seen posts criticizing the parents. I can assure you alligators were not on my mind at all when Channing was in the water. It's a tiny beach, surrounded by pools, water slides, a restaurant and a fire pit. I can't conceive that an alligator would be in such a busy, small space."
It's true; most people would have no idea that alligators can lurk in these waters, and Disney only warns against swimming in the lagoon, without specifically cautioning guests about the deadly animals. I'll admit this danger was in the back of my mind while I stayed on property, but only because my parents live in the South, near a pond that frequently attracts 'gators. We know not to let our kids or dogs near the shoreline. But again, the only reason I would know about this potential danger is because I've had that experience!
That people are judging Lane's parents for a freak accident that is so outside anyone's wildest imagination, even Disney's, is just sick. This poor family came down to Florida from Nebraska banking on having the time of their lives. Now they are burying a child. My heart breaks for them. I can only hope the compassion of parents across the globe will ease their suffering just the tiniest bit, and that they are sheltered from nasty trolls who are faulting them for this unthinkable tragedy.
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.