Orlando, I love you (Or “My First Week”)

It’s been a bit of a week.

Yesterday marked my first full week living in the Orlando area. If all had gone according to plan, I would have had my first day of training yesterday and would currently be sitting in training and not sitting in my apartment. But, as I think weve all learned this week, sometimes things don’t go according to plan.

After an awesome few days of settling in and spending time with new and old friends, I was gearing up for my first offical day of work at Disney World, Traditions. Traditions is Disney’s company orientation, and one of my fondest memories from my first program.

However, I received a phone call from Casting on Friday night telling me that there was a delay with my background check. They requested that I not attend Traditions or my first day of training, and that I wait to hear further information. Because of the weekend, there was no movement; however I was able to speak with an area leader who assured me that this would all get straightened out. 

And in the midst of allof this, two tragedies happened not far from where I am now living.

On Friday night, singer Christina Grimmie was shot and killed while signing autographs after a concert. While I was not an active fan of her music, the senseless, horrific shooting, which took place in Orlando, broke my heart. From what I know, she was a beautiful human, inside and out, taken far too soon. Waking up to that news shook me, but I decided to go to Epcot to take my mind off of it (Casting had provided a two day park hopper pass to anyone whose background checks got delayed, as a courtesy). I also wanted to get out of the apartment and not think about the fact that I wasn’t at Traditions. My friends were amazing and worked so hard to keep me positive, and we had a fantastic day.

I got home late Saturday night with every intention of sleeping in on Sunday morning. However, Disney had other plans and I received a call at 8 AM from Deployment asking why I wasn’t at work. I explained the situation with Casting and they said they’d have a leader call me (which is why I got to speak to my leader yesterday).  As I tried to fall back asleep, I took a quick scroll through Twitter. I saw a tweet saying something about the shooter having an assault rifle; my sleepy brain thought “The guy who shot Christina Grimmie had an assault rifle? That’s insane!” I fell back asleep with no knowledge of what actually happened in the early hours of Sunday morning.

I woke up a couple of hours later to a bunch of texts and messages asking if I was okay. I quickly jumped on Twitter and got an idea of what was going on — a man had shot up a night club. After I assured my family and friends that I was okay, home safe in my apartment, more details began to emerge. I read through countless tweets, Facebook posts, and news stories detailing the horrific events of what happened in Pulse. I checked in on Facebook to put my loved ones’ minds at ease. Everything became a blur of sadness, anger, and horror. I didn’t think it could get any more senseless. And then it. did. The guns were purchased legally. The victims were attempting to enjoy an awesome night celebrating their heritage and pride. 50 lives were cut short. Many others are suffering from injuries. The shooter is dead. But so are 50 people who did not deserve to die. I’m crying just typing this out.

Even though I haven’t started working yet, I am proud to be a part of the Disney family. I went to Magic Kingdom yesterday for the sole purpose of hugging a friend who was supposed to be at Pulse Saturday night (he ended up staying late in the parks instead). I saw the cast and guests being kind to one another. I witnessed pure joy during the Frontierland Hoedown. I’m so proud of the strength and togetherness of where I’ll be working. 

And last night, I came home and watched the Tony’s with close friends. We laughed, cried, and sang together. We listened to James Corden’s dedication to Orlando and felt the pride and strength of our new home. We listened to Lin Manuel Miranda’s sonnet in pure silence, understanding the magnitude of what happened in our city. And at the end, we all hugged. All day today, we’ve wished each other “be safe” in all of our travels and adventures. I have a feeling we’ll do that for a while.

As I sit here waiting for a call from Casting telling me when I can work, I keep reminding myself that I’m here, I’m breathing, I will start working soon, and everything will be okay. I’m focusing my “day off” energy on remembering the victims, especially those who were a part of the Disney family. My thoughts go out to the families and loved ones of those who were taken too soon.

I want to say something profound about gun control, but I just don’t have the words. I’m sad. I’m angry. And something needs to change, soon, America. We can’t keep seeing tragedies like this. We just can’t.

(I realize how selfish this post is. How many times I’ve said “I.” But I needed to get my thoughts out.)

Orlando, I love you.


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