I am Orlando

Edited: June 12, 2016, 5:31 PM

As close as I am to the situation, there is so much that remains unknown. At this time there is internet chatter that claims 13 Walt Disney World cast members are unaccounted for. Information and the story is still evolving.

Orlando is, by most measures, a small town. I came here (permanently) in May 1983 -- when I landed a job as a Jungle Cruise skipper at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. My professional career has been tied to the hospitality industry -- from attraction host, to hotel employee, to my time at Universal Creative and Walt Disney Imagineering on into my work in commercial construction.

And the fundamental conclusion I have drawn from the last 33 years is that Orlando is a small town.

This makes this morning's tragedy strange. Certainly I felt an alliance with "Boston Strong!" and "Je suis Charlie". But as thankful as I am for the worldwide expressions of support being directed to my hometown it's strange and surreal to see FB memes that read "Pray for Orlando."

We will persevere. And for those considering a trip to Orlando, you can be certain in the safety of our community -- attractions, resorts, restaurants and entertainment venues. And you can invest great faith in the theme park cast members and resort employees and restaurant servers and bartenders and cab drivers and retail associates who are working to make your vacation a memorable (and safe) experience.

Orlando will persevere.

Replies (16)

Edited: June 12, 2016, 7:10 PM

Agreed, and well said.

June 13, 2016, 12:13 AM

(Clap emoji)

June 13, 2016, 10:58 AM

Luis Vielma was one of those lost on 61216. He was also an operator on one of the Harry Potter attractions at Universal.

Having learned that he was gone, Potter author JK Rowling went on Twitter writing: “Luis Vielma worked on the Harry Potter ride at Universal. He was 22 years old. I can’t stop crying.”

June 13, 2016, 2:57 PM

I've been told that Walt Disney World lost four cast members in the attack.

June 13, 2016, 4:16 PM

Hi TH,

I was going to post about Luis. He was part of my aunt's youth group a few years back and she is devastated. It is nearly too terrible for words.

June 14, 2016, 2:25 AM

Universal Orlando team member and Harry Potter attraction operator Luis was honored tonight at Islands of Adventured with "raised wands" at Hogwarts.


June 14, 2016, 2:39 AM

June 14, 2016, 6:13 AM

Man this really sucks TH..... I hate this crap.....

We heard a mass shooting in Orlando and all I could think of was please don't let it be at a park... Can you imagine how much worse it could have been?

We in America have a huge problems with easy access to guns... I do not care about the NRA and the second amendment. We have abused this way too often... If you do not agree with me to f-ing bad. I am a Military veteran of 6 years and I have seen too much.. Both on the news and in person.

Did we already forget about Sandy Hook elementary school? Our congress and senate is full of cowards.

June 14, 2016, 6:24 AM

@Brian Emery
I have about the same feelings as you, minus the Military veteran part. Its just sad, no depressing, that nothing is being done.

June 14, 2016, 3:56 PM

Disney Steps Up!

The Walt Disney Co. is giving $1 million to a fund created to help support victims of Sunday's mass shooting.

The City of Orlando went live Tuesday with the One Orlando Fund, which will support the organizations involved in the recovery efforts after the events at Pulse nightclub.

Mayor Buddy Dyer announced the One Orlando fund at Monday night's vigil at the Dr. Phillip's Center for the Performing Arts, including a $500,000 donation from Darden Restaurants, and $100,000 donations from air carrier JetBlue and the Orlando Magic.

Disney's donation was confirmed by the City of Orlando.

June 15, 2016, 2:29 AM

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer announced the formation of the OneOrlando Fund. The purpose of the Fund is to provide a way to help respond to the needs of our community, now and in the time to come, after the effects of the Pulse tragedy.

To donate please visit http://www.oneorlando.org/.

Your help is greatly appreciated.

June 15, 2016, 4:57 AM

We have heard news about the Universal Cast Member, but I thought I read somewhere about there being a few Disney World cast members. Any news or memorials for them?

June 17, 2016, 2:56 PM

The love continues ...

LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - Just days after Disney announced that it was donating $1 million to the OneOrlando fund for Orlando shooting victims, Comcast NBCUniversal revealed that they're following suit.

NBCUniversal will also be donating $1 million to the fund, which was set up by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer to help those affected by the shooting at Pulse nightclub on Sunday that left 49 people dead.

June 19, 2016, 11:33 AM

The Pulse shooting vigil held at the Magic Kingdom on June 16, 2016.

June 19, 2016, 11:34 AM

From the orlando Sentinel: "Walt Disney World guests gathered around the Partners statue at Magic Kingdom Saturday night to pay their respects to the victims of Orlando's mass shooting.

The informal, unofficial gathering took place around 11:45, as guests held glow sticks, smartphones and artificial candles in the air during a moment of silence following with the park's nightly "Kiss Goodnight" announcement. Around midnight, guests began weaving their glow sticks into a rainbow heart, which rested at the base of Cinderella Castle."

June 20, 2016, 6:11 AM

In addition to Disney and Comcast, big props to JetBlue.

"JetBlue is providing free seats on its available flights to/from Orlando for immediate family and domestic partners of victims who were killed or injured. Those family members and domestic partners requiring travel assistance can contact 1-800-JETBLUE for details."

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