On Saturday morning, Feb 20th, 2016, I found a loaded handgun in the grass, at a playground, in DisneyWorld, Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. The gun triggered strong emotions of fear and anger, and completely altered our weekend plans.
My mom, sister, and I all live far away from each other, but we decided to meet and go camping together. It wasn’t my idea to camp at Disney, it was my sisters idea. She said the resort was beautiful, and while I protested a little, I finally agreed. Upon arriving and exploring on Friday afternoon, I realized my sister was right. Fort Wilderness is beautiful. There was a playground right next to our campsite, that my daughter loved. She probably went down the slide 50 times. Friday night we attended a campfire sing a long with Chip and Dale, and while it certainly is not “normal” camping, it was a lot of fun.
Saturday morning, I woke up cold, body stiff. Sleeping in a tent, on cement (even with a yoga mat), is not comfortable. I did a little yoga, drank some cold instant coffee with almond milk, watched two cardinals fly from tree to tree, and enjoyed the early morning quiet.
When the kids woke up, almost immediately, they started begging us to take them to a theme park. We told them they would have fun at the campground, which has playgrounds, trails, and swimming pools with waterslides.I thought of sending the kids off to the playground, but I wanted hot coffee, and the kids needed breakfast, so we all decided to walk to a restaurant at the resort.
Pushing my daughters stroller, I looked down in the grass and I saw a gun. At first glance, I thought it had to be a toy. Upon closer inspection, I realized it wasn’t. We told park management, and soon the Orange County Police arrived. We spoke with one officer who shook his head in disbelief and said, “That gun was fully loaded and at a playground in DisneyWorld.”
I felt really upset. I kept thinking “What if a kid had found that gun?” Of course I imagined all sorts of frightening scenarios.Loaded guns, children, Disneyworld. Certainly not the normal situation for the “Happiest Place On Earth.”
Back at our campsite, management was there, waiting to take our statements. We told our story, and added that we felt very uncomfortable and wanted to change campsites. They said the resort was completely full, but instead they offered us a 2 bedroom, 3 bathroom suite at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort. In addition to the suite, they gave us one day park hopper passes to the theme parks.
When we told the kids, they started jumping up and down in excitement. My niece and nephew ran over to me, hugged me, smiled, and said “Thank you for finding that gun!!!” Of course they didnt really understand what could have happened.
We packed our things and drove to Animal Kingdom resort. When we entered our room, our jaws dropped. We walked slowly, in awe of our beautiful and enormous suite. The Disney Staff gifted us with Chocolates, Candy, Coloring Books, Crayons, and even a Disney Board game. Our suite had three sliding glass doors that opened to a large balcony, overlooking a large field, designed to look like the African Savannah. Zebras, Giraffes,gazelles, ostriches, and many other African animals walked around freely. I had never seen anything like it.
Feeling like all of this was a strange dream, we checked the internet for the price of our suite, and saw that it costs over 1,500 dollars per night. (Slightly above my normal hotel price range. Haha.)
We rode the shuttle to Magic Kingdom, which was very crowded. But it was beautiful. The kids were happy, smiling ear to ear, they seemed to skip rather than walk. My 2 year old daughter, who looks like an owl, her large eyes grew even wider as she looked around and took it all in. We rode many rides, saw two parades, the firework show. We stayed at Magic Kingdom until the park closed. All of us had a wonderful time, even though in the back of our minds we kept wondering about that gun.
Back at the hotel, we slept in the master suite, and that bed was the most comfortable bed I have ever laid on. Very different than sleeping on cement as we did the night before. 🙂
We woke up and enjoyed a leisurely morning and an afternoon of waterslides and swimming.
I made it back down to South Florida last night, just in time to see the very end of the Street Painting Festival in Lake Worth. I saw a painting that fit our weekend perfectly. And right below the painting, someone had written the word “destiny.”
The weekend could have ended tragically, but through destiny and perhaps some guidance from a guardian angel, we had a beautiful, safe, fun, and memorable weekend.
I want to add, that Disneyworld has clear rules that guns are prohibited. I think the police handled the situation quickly and professionally. However, I don’t know if the gun was registered or if the police were able to find the gun owner. I don’t know if someone accidentally dropped their gun or if this was malicious. But I do know that this should not have happened. This is just one more story, that proves, once again, that this country has a problem with gun safety. This was a loaded gun at a playground. And while our story has a happy ending, most stories involving loaded guns, do not.