Last summer, a tragedy so breathtakingly grotesque, seemingly unlikely, and just plain sad struck a Disney World resort in Orlando: A 2-year-old boy named Lane Graves died after an alligator emerged from the water near the resort and dragged the boy into the lagoon from where he was playing on the beach. One year later, Disney is building a memorial to Lane Graves, who had been vacationing with his family from Nebraska at the time of his tragic death, the Orlando Sentinel reported. To recognize the somber anniversary, Disney has announced that it will erect a sculpture of a lighthouse in Lane's memory at an as-yet undisclosed location on its property.
The idea of building a commissioned sculpture of a lighthouse is a deliberate one, as the lighthouse is the symbol of The Lane Thomas Foundation. Lane's parents, Matt and Melissa Graves, founded the foundation shortly after his death to "serve as a beacon of hope in the depths of despair, to create a strong base of support for families in crisis," according to its Facebook page. Specifically, The Lane Thomas Foundation focuses on offering financial support to help cover non-medical expenses for the families of children who need organ transplants at Omaha hospitals, its website details.
It's a beautiful thing, really: They ultimately couldn't save their own son (and the boy's father tried when he attempted to pry open the gator's snout after it snatched Lane), but they're doing what they can to support other families in crisis and promote better outcomes for their children.
In addition to pledging to build the memorial, Disney has taken other steps to reduce the likelihood that such an attack will happen again on its resort properties. Not long after the headline-grabbing tragedy, Disney built a stone wall around the lagoon, located at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, where it happened. It also posted more warning signs about alligators in the area. For their part, the Graves, who have one other young daughter, have decided not to try to sue Disney, choosing instead to "solely be focused on the future health of our family," they said in a statement last July.
And while they apparently remain dedicated to The Lane Thomas Foundation, Lane's parents aren't currently speaking publicly about their traumatic ordeal. A few weeks before the anniversary of their son's death, they released a statement saying as much, according to TODAY:
We are aware of your heightened interest in our family. For now, we choose to continue to live quietly, with no current desire to speak publicly. Our hope is that you can appreciate and honor our wishes and refrain from attempting to contact us directly.
The memorial is a wonderful way to honor little Lane and to remind all families in crisis that there is still hope and love in the world. As the Graves know, you can never have enough of those when a senseless horror takes or threatens a life and forever alters the fabric of a family.