It was a beautiful morning at Mickey’s Retreat on June 12, 2018. The sky twirled in pinks and purples, seeping softly to cheery blue. The sun stretched its arms, touching the water as it woke the early risers. We stood quietly in our groups, circling the stage filled with color. We waited for Walt Disney World Ambassador Brandon Peters to begin the memorial event taking place to commemorate the 49 innocent lives that were lost in the Pulse nightclub shooting on June 12, 2016.
Flashing back two years ago, remembering the fright that jolted us, I recall how I and other Disney College Program participants felt, wondering if our loved ones were okay. We stood with hope and knew that even though something like this came too close for comfort, we were together in strength and love.
Walt Disney World Executive Maribeth Bisienere took to the stage to send a message of compassion. She reassured the crowd that, “We can inspire continued hope and healing with every act of love and kindness shared with others, starting today.”
The air sat peacefully while the birds chirped above us. Following Mrs. Bisienere’s stirring words, a few leaders from Walt Disney World Resort Diversity Resource Groups read the names of the 49 remembered lives. The Walt Disney World Resort Diversity Resource Groups work to support and enhance the diversity and inclusion goals of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts by contributing value to the areas of workplace, workforce and marketplace. There are a number of Diversity Resource Groups that cast members can be a part of, from WDW Pride, which aims to offer an encouraging environment to LGBTQ and ally cast members, to cultural Diversity Resource Groups like WDW HOLA with the goal of embracing and infusing Hispanic and Latino culture across Walt Disney World Resort. You can learn more and sign up for these groups during your program.
To conclude the event, the Orlando Gay Chorus took the stage and filled the air with powerful acapella melodies. We were taken in by the angelic voices, covering the Beatles’ “Let It Be.”
We caught up with Disney College Program participant Zach and his friends after the event concluded. Zach shared, “As a member of the LGBTQ community, it’s meaningful to work for a company that recognizes and remembers the Pulse event.”
Leaving us with a sense of empowerment, audience members were given four cards to spread kindness throughout our day. The goal is to create a ripple effect. If we all spread a little bit of happiness, magic will find us.
In the wake of the Pulse Nightclub tragedy, we came together as a company to deliver acts of kindness and warmth, and we continue to do so today. It’s the little things, like strangers becoming family while a hand pats the back of a neighbor, or sharing a smile (because smiles are contagious!). At the Pulse Remembrance ceremony, we gathered to remember that “the sun does rise” if we believe with all our hearts.