Coast woman caught up in Orlando tragedies
WHEN Melany Brock moved to Orlando in August last year, she was preparing for the trip of a lifetime.
But in the last few weeks, not only as the Sippy Downs resident been impacted by the Pulse night club shooting that claimed 49 lives, but was also working at Walt Disney World on the day two-year-old Lane Graves was taken and killed by an alligator as he played in the shallows of a lagoon in Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa.
The Sippy Downs University of the Sunshine Coast business marketing student made the move to pursue a career in the arts through the International College Program offered at Walt Disney World.
Miss Brock had been living her dream as a character attendant, getting to be "best friends" with Mickey Mouse and all of the characters throughout the four Disney parks.
Miss Brock said it had been a "sad and scary time" and she was looking forward to completing her last week of the program and returning to the Sunshine Coast.
"I already felt unsafe living here but with the whole election coming up and these things happening I really want to come home," she said.
"We are blessed to live where we do."
The 22-year-old took to Facebook on June 12 following the massacre, which happened just 20 minutes from her home, to ensure friends and relatives that she was safe.
"I don't have many words for what has happened over the last 48 hours in this place that I've called home for the last year," she wrote.
"I'm shocked and terrified. However, I am blessed to be surrounded by a large community of love."
Earlier today, Miss Brock opened up about losing two Disney cast members in the shooting while others are still recovering in hospital.
"It has well and truly not only shaken the entertainment cast, but the whole company," she said.
"We have all been really rocked over the last two weeks and our guests have been jumping when the fireworks go off in fear of them being gun shots.
"It's not pleasant at all. It's just shocking and totally cements how important our gun laws are, even though many people here do not agree."
Another tragedy struck just a few days after the massacre, when Lane Graves was killed by an alligator while playing in shallow water.
According to a witness, the alligator came out of the lagoon and attacked.
Lane's body was found the next day.
Miss Brock said they were unaware of what was unfolding at the time of the alligator attack.
"All we knew was that there were helicopters circling above the Magic Kingdom looking for something or someone," she said.
"Everyone's first reaction was of course to believe there was a much larger threat because just days before, we lost 49 people in a mass shooting."
Alligators were a common presence in Florida and Miss Brock said the resorts had clear No Swimming signs and although they did not specifically mention the potential threat of alligators, they had been ignored.
"It is not unusual for us here at Disney or for anyone who lives in Florida to see alligators. This is their home," she said.
"What happened could have happened to anyone in Florida. It just happened at our resort."
Miss Brock said fences were being constructed around the seven seas lagoon and the company had temporarily removed Lewis the Alligator from the new castle show and removed Tic Tok the Croc from the daily Festival of Fantasy parade.
"We have removed our croc/alligator facts from our safari at Animal kingdom and taken all gator jokes from the Jungle Cruise in the Magic Kingdom," she said.
"All efforts are being made to make this a more bearable time for the family.
"It will all return when the time is right."
Orange County sheriff Jerry Demings said five alligators had been taken from the lagoon after the boy went under and they had been euthanized to determine if any of them killed the boy.
It was a move that had struck a chord with Miss Brock.
"Would we take away the kangaroos from the University of the Sunshine Coast if someone got too close and it reacted?" she said.
"I feel disgusted that innocent animals are being harmed because of this. It's much like the shark issue. I myself love animals and strive to conserve nature so this is extremely upsetting."
Miss Brock said the staff of 47,000 had made it their mission to stick together for support and push through the recent events to "make magic" for their guests.
"It seems that the world need magic more now than ever," she said.